The National Party is being urged to demand that regional jobs and services at Essential Energy be protected as part of a renegotiated coalition agreement with incoming NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, with the Electrical Trades Union describing Mike Baird’s departure as a unique opportunity to save thousands of quality jobs in the bush.
The call follows Nationals leader and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s statement that the existing agreement between his party and the Liberals was a blank piece of paper, with everything up for debate.
Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler said that while Mr Barilaro’s new found courage opposing forced council amalgamations was a welcome start, the National Party must go further to stand up for the interests of regional communities by protecting regional jobs.
“During the next three years, the NSW Government-owned regional electricity distributor Essential Energy plans to halve its workforce, from 3,200 employees to just 1,600 by 2019,” Mr Butler said.
“This plan will cause untold pain to regional communities as quality jobs are lost, specialist workers are forced to move away with their families, less money is spent with local businesses, and far fewer front-line workers are available to carry out maintenance and emergency response work.
“This is the perfect opportunity for Mr Barilaro to demonstrate the truth to his claims that every policy is up for debate and that the Nationals will no longer ‘accept the crumbs from the Liberal party table’.”
Mr Butler said the coming weeks provided an unprecedented opportunity, with a new Premier, a cabinet reshuffle, and a renewal of the coalition agreement between the Liberal and National parties.
“Since coming to power in 2011, the Nationals have overseen the loss of 1,400 regional jobs at Essential Energy,” Mr Butler said.
“Now they are pushing ahead with plans to make a further 1,600 regional workers redundant by 2019.
“Essential Energy remains 100 per cent owned and controlled by the NSW Government, meaning Mr Barilaro can and should demand the protection of these jobs as a condition of the National Party’s ongoing support.
“Saving these jobs would provide clear evidence that the National Party has truly learnt from the Orange byelection and will no longer rubber-stamp decisions in Macquarie Street that run counter to the interests of regional workers, their families, and broader communities.
“The alternative — continuing to support this ideological push to outsource jobs — would expose Mr Barilaro and his National Party colleagues as being unwilling or unable to adequately represent the interests of regional NSW in the parliament.”