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EARLY RETIREMENTS AT UP&L BRING BOTH JOY AND HARDSHIP

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For Phyllis Robinson, early retirement from Utah Power & Light means getting the chance to do some things she's never done before - like traveling the country, or being a pink lady at a hospital, working with abused children, or helping counselors at the Salt Lake Rape Crisis Center.

Robinson, 50, was one of 172 Utah Power & Light employees who agreed on Friday to take early retirement from their parent company, PacifiCorp.However for Bryan Drennan, who worked for UP&L as a mechanical engineer, early retirement means something different.

The father of 11, eight of whom are still dependent, he's looking for new employment to supplement his retirement income.

"There's no question - I need to go to another job," he said.

However, Drennan acknowledged his early retirement is probably a positive step because mechanical engineers are in demand and salaries are competitive.

Drennan said some employees, who were not as prepared to take early retirement but who were eligible for it, felt pressure from PacifiCorp to retire.

"The pressure came in the form of letters warning that insurance benefits were not going to be as good as they were," he said. "And also that this would be the last opportunity to retire early."

Employees who retired may have felt pressure to do so because it is perceived that job security is weakened during reorganization, Drennan added.

More than 308 employees from the company's electric-operations group, which operates in seven Western states, also took early retirement.

The retirements were offered by the company last April in an effort to speed the implementation of efficiency measures and trim its operation by 1,063 employees.

The retirements come 18 months after the diversified electric utility company merged with UP&L. The move will reduce the number of jobs to be trimmed systemwide to about 250, a spokesman said Saturday.

UP&L spokesman Dave Mead said the company's promise that no employees would be terminated as a result of the merger with UP&L will be kept.

"No employee has lost his or her job as a result of the merger, and none will," Mead said.

Jim Byrne, member of the Utah Public Service Commission, confirmed Saturday that PacifiCorp officials have been true to their promise.

"We haven't seen any indication that employees have lost jobs because of the merger," he said.

The Utah Public Service Commission approved the merger in 1988 with promises made in hearing proceedings that no employees would be terminated as a result.

The merger has drawn the attention of the state Committee of Consumer Services, which represents the interests of small-business and residential utility customers.

The committee has expressed concerns about the impact the job reductions initiated by the merger will have on the state's economy.

Joseph Ingles, executive director of the committee, could not be reached Saturday for comment on the early retirements.

Almost half of the 1,063 positions targeted for elimination by PacifiCorp had already been cut through normal attrition, including regular retirements and people leaving for other employment, Mead said.

Mead said employees in any of the 250 positions yet to be cut will receive a comparable position and no reduction in salary.

"They may be temporarily displaced or have to move to other PacifiCorp locations in order to accomplish that," he said.

An additional 250 administrative, staff, field, and power-plant operations employees were displaced last week as part of the reduction, Mead said. But 300 jobs that are not filled throughout PacifiCorp's seven states are posted, and displaced employees are given preference for those positions.

Employee morale has suffered because of the reduction, Mead acknowledged, saying, "change is hard on people."

More workers will be displaced next week as part of the restructuring, he said.