Illinois Power Co. said Tuesday that it could make a "significant reduction" in employment over several years following a restructuring of its customer service operations.
But the utility would not attach a figure based on its reorganization plan, which it will now study for as long as eight months.
"What will drive these numbers is how we arrange our customer service functions," said James E. Swift, a company vice president and leader of the group that developed the restructuring plan.
"We won't know that for a while," Swift said.
Illinois Power had 4,540 workers at the end of last year. That's down 2 percent from 1992, but up more than 14 percent from 1983.
"We need to get the work force down to where our cost structure is competitive," said Craig E. Nesbit, a spokesman for the utility based in Decatur, Ill.
He said Illinois Power laid off some workers in the late 1980s, but the payroll then expanded until 1992.
"The bottom line is we're trying to position ourselves for competition," Nesbit said.
Jack Whealon, business manager for Local 309 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Collinsville, said the utility's move to reduce its work force was "threatening to our organization."
Local 309 represents about 300 Illinois Power workers in the Metro East area.
"We were pretty well aware that they were in a …