FLORIDA UTILITY BEGINS ROUND OF LAYOFFS

FLORIDA UTILITY BEGINS ROUND OF LAYOFFS

Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility, has begun a round of layoffs and staff reductions that could rival the massive cuts two years ago, when 2,300 employees lost their jobs.

The utility announced Monday that 412 senior employees - 81 percent of the 506 employees eligible - have accepted early retirement. The utility began offering early retirements last month as part of the company's plan to slash $100 million from its 1994 budget.But the cuts won't stop there: Hundreds more Florida Power & Light employees are being laid off. Those cuts started Friday as groups of employees were offered severance packages. Most employees to lose jobs will be notified by Oct. 8.

Florida Power & Light officials still won't say how many people will lose their jobs. But some analysts have estimated that as many as 1,000 to 1,500 more positions could be cut.

Layoffs are expected to be heaviest in South Florida, where 70 percent of the utility's 14,000 workers are employed.

"Early retirements are generally the way the utilities start," said Tony Osbon, vice president of Regulatory Research Association, a Jersey City, N.J., utility analyst firm. "But to save millions, you're looking at outright layoffs. And to save $100 million, the loss of jobs would be sizable."