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PacifiCorp cost-cutting to hit 140 Utahns

Another 140 Utah PacifiCorp employees will feel the effects of continuing efforts to cut costs, a company official said Thursday.

Margaret Kesler, PacifiCorp spokeswoman in Salt Lake City, said about 140 local workers, and 239 throughout the company, face changes under a plan to consolidate accounting operations at company headquarters in Portland, Ore."There has been a large accounting presence here in Salt Lake City for a number of years," Kesler said Thursday. "What they are doing is consolidating the accounting functions that have been in smaller departments."

Kesler said employees were notified of the decision a few days ago, and she does not yet know exactly how local employees will be affected. The transition to Portland is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

In mid-March, she said, the company will provide a more detailed plan that outlines how many of the accounting jobs will remain after the consolidation.

PacifiCorp, which owns Utah Power, also should know by then how many of its accounting employees will take an early retirement option, apply for other jobs in the company or decide to pack up and move to Portland.

"There are a number of opportunities, and they have received those," Kesler said. "They do have an opportunity to bid on other jobs. Until there's actual signing on the dotted line, nobody knows who is going to be taking early retirement, and in the case of accounting, who might be wanting to move to Portland. That's kind of a question mark right now."

In mid-January, PacifiCorp announced that 600 employees, including about 200 Utahns, were projected to take early retirement as part of a company work-force reduction plan.

Officials of the utility company said the early retirements were needed to protect a low-cost power supply, and to better position the company for competition that will come with deregulation of the energy industry.

PacifiCorp also has said it hopes the job cuts will help earnings, which dropped 5 percent from 1996 to 1997.

But Kesler said Thursday that the company, which employs 2,813 people in Utah, does not yet have specific figures on how much it hopes to save through the accounting consolidation.

"They did some bench-marking of our company against potential competitors," Kesler said Thursday. "With this particular type of function (accounting), there are benefits to having it all centralized in one geographic location. It's a case of decreasing costs and increasing efficiencies."