PG&E Requests Millions in Bonuses

Pacific Gas & Electric is asking a judge to approve between $235 million to $350 million in bonuses to some 10,000 employees in the midst of its ongoing bankruptcy proceeding.

The bonus plan for 2019 would be weighted based on a formula that gives 40 percent weight to “financial performance” with public safety given a ten percent factor.

But in a filing with the court, attorneys for the company say the “debtors are sending a clear message to their workforce that the safety of the communities the debtors serve and of their employees is of paramount concern during the restructuring process and into the future.’’

In January, the company sought bankruptcy protection, citing up to $30 billion in wildfire liabilities between 2017 and 2018. After first proposing $130 million in bonuses for non-management workers for 2018, it abandoned that plan amid strong criticism from attorneys for wildfire victims.

In a filing this week, PG&E told the bankruptcy judge that such bonuses typically range from 6 percent to 20 percent of employee salaries and are designed to bring their rate of pay "in line” with the utility labor market.

Dario de Ghetaldi, attorney for wildfire victims, said it defies logic to rate public safety as a 10 percent factor and financial performance at 40 percent. Much of the bonus rating, however, is based on other measures, including nuclear power safety, gas pipeline inspections, record keeping and workplace accident rates.

PG&E considers those four metrics as safety related. PG&E officials stress that together with public safety, the other categories combine to account for 50 percent of the bonus score, followed by 40 percent for financial factors. The remaining ten percent is based on customer satisfaction.

But De Ghetaldi says the 50 percent safety metric assertion is misleading because financial performance is still the largest single category, with the so called safety metric being an amalgam of factors that range from ongoing maintenance to credit for prioritizing a particular gas pipeline inspection method.

“The clear message that they are sending is that making money is four times more important to PG&E than public safety,” de Ghetaldi said.

He noted that a top financial official with the company, Jason Wells, was confronted at a hearing this week but could not explain the $2.5 million bonus to outgoing CEO Geisha Williams but failure to pay $20 million in settlements already reached with victims of the 2015 Butte fire in Calaveras County.

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