JEA employee: 'There's a sense of panic right now'

UPDATE at Feb. 2: JEA released a letter a day after Action News Jax spoke to employees concerned over a "hostile" environment and whether the utility company will be sold.


Original story below:

Some JEA employees tell Action News Jax they're working in a "hostile" environment as people worry that the utility might be sold.

Last week, Action News Jax spoke to five different employees who all expressed fear over their jobs and pensions.

“There’s a sense of panic right now because of the unknown,” said JEA employee Valerie Gutierrez.

Gutierrez is also the union representative for more than 500 JEA employees.

“[Employees] don't know who's buying [JEA], if we are going to be sold, what it means to [the employees’ families], their future,” Gutierrez said.

Her feelings were echoed by a veteran employee, who wanted his face and voice disguised.

“How are you feeling right now?” Action News Jax Reporter Russell Colburn asked the employee.

“Like somebody is backstabbing, somebody's doing the wrong thing on purpose,” the employee said.

“It's like they forgot who they got working for them. They always talk about we care about the employee, but right now I feel like I'm being not cared for.”

On Tuesday, Action News Jax broke the news that a letter went to JEA employees in leadership positions, offering incentives if they agreed to stay on if the utility sold.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry voiced his displeasure about the letter.

“The idea that 60-something people have been promised some sort of a parachute is problematic, and I’m not pleased with it, and have my team working to resolve it,” Curry said.

On Thursday, Action News Jax sat down with JEA Board Chairman Alan Howard.

“Can you sit here and say that the little guy, the line worker, those jobs will be safe in the near future?” Colburn asked.

“Regardless of whether [JEA is] owned by the citizens of Jacksonville or it's an investor-owned utility, someone's going to have to maintain the lines, so I'd be very comfortable in saying that the vast majority of JEA jobs would be safe, if there is a transaction in the future,” Howard said.

“Again, that's not a foregone conclusion,” he added.