ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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No new apprentices for NSW electricity network as companies fattened up for privatisation

- Monday, August 11, 2014

For the first time in more than half a century, not one new apprentice will start work with the electricity poles and wires companies next year, in a move unions fear is part of the process of “fattening up” the companies for privatisation.

Management at Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid and Essential Energy this week confirmed that the usual apprentice intake at the beginning of each year will be postponed for at least six months and take on fewer, if any, young workers.

An investigation by the Electrical Trades Union into apprenticeship numbers at the three companies has also revealed that since the Coalition Government was elected in 2011, apprentice intakes have been slashed by more than two thirds.

The ETU believes the drastic reduction in training places for the specialist electrical workers that maintain the electricity network will have a major impact on the availability of the skills to build, maintain and repai  r the poles and wires in future.

“At the start of 2011, Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid and Essential Energy hired a combined 315 new apprentices across NSW, providing an investment in the skills of the young workers who will become the future of the industry,” ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said.

“By this year, the number of new apprenticeships offered had plunged to just 88.

“We have now discovered that all three companies have abandoned any intake of new apprentices for the start of next year.

“We believe there has been a directive given to these publicly-owned businesses to halt their training programs for new staff in an attempt to fatten up their profitability ahead of Mike Baird’s planned sell off.”

Mr Butler said that for more than half a century, a new group of electrical apprentices had started work with poles and wires companies each January, securing the needed skills for the future.

“This is the first time in the memory of anyone working in the industry that not one new apprentice will walk through the door at the start of the year,” he said.

“While the Baird Government will likely spin the reasons for this, there is no doubt in our minds that the drastic reduction in apprentice numbers in recent years — and the complete halt to the program next year — is part of the preparation for privatisation.

“Mike Baird wants to hand over control of these companies to the private sector as soon as possible after the March election, which is why he is looking to reduce the budget spent on training so the books appear more appealing to potential buyers.

“In Victoria, where the electricity network was sold off to overseas owners in the 1990’s, there were no new apprentices engaged at all in the following years, which is exactly what now looks like happening in NSW.

“The only way to ensure the people of NSW will have reliable, affordable and well-maintained electricity services in the decades ahead is to make sure the specialist skills required are passed on to a new batch of workers each year.

“In their rush for profits, the NSW Government has decided it would rather make a quick buck now, leaving future generations with the inevitable problems caused by skills shortages.”

Apprentice intake numbers by company and year:

 

Ausgrid

Endeavour Energy

Essential Energy

2010

151

60

129

2011

153

60

102

2012

81

45

116

2013

49

28

59

2014

38

20

30

2015

0

0

0