Rural and regional energy sector workers feel justifiably betrayed by the NSW Government after it refused to support legislative amendments that would provide certainty over job numbers as part of a merger of the boards of the state’s three electricity network operators.
The United Services Union and Electrical Trades Union said the O’Farrell Government’s reforms to the electricity network, which sought to save $400 million dollars, had already seen almost 800 jobs lost through natural attrition, with fears of more to come.
A number of amendments that sought to protect existing staffing and service levels in rural and regional areas were rejected by the Liberal and National Parties in the Upper House.
United Services Union energy, utilities and private sector manager Scott McNamara said unions had put forward a series of recommended amendments to the legislation to merge the boards of Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy that would prevent the merged board from:
transferring existing jobs away from regional communities;
making existing regional positions redundant; and
reducing the number of employees at each of the respective electricity distributors.
“These amendments were about trying to protect rural and regional communities throughout NSW that are reliant on the jobs provided by the electricity distributors,” Mr McNamara said.
“The O’Farrell Government showed its true colours yesterday when it formally rejected several amendments from the Opposition and minor parties that would have gone some way to protecting jobs and services in regional communities, but it’s not too late for them to stand up for regional NSW.
“Electricity unions want to make it clear to the O’Farrell Government that essential services like the electricity network are of vital importance to rural and regional communities, and that these areas will most acutely feel any reductions in service delivery and maintenance standards.
“The O’Farrell Government claimed their reforms would save money by reducing duplication of corporate services, standardising IT systems and delivering economies of scale in purchasing, but what they’re doing by refusing to provide job security for staff in regional communities is admit the savings will actually come from job cuts.
“The flow on effects for the broader economies and communities of regional areas impacted by power network job cuts will be massive.”
Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler said the merger of the boards of the three electricity network operators, which has passed through the lower house of NSW Parliament, now meant hundreds of jobs were under threat despite promises made by the Premier.
“Following the government announcement that they would merge the electricity companies the Premier himself flew to Port Macquarie and gave a guarantee to locals that there would be no job losses, a commitment that was repeated by Treasurer Mike Baird only last month,” Mr Butler said.
“It now appears the Government has abandoned this commitment.
“The NSW Government last night had a chance to support regional communities across NSW by backing a sensible amendment to protect jobs in rural centres for at least five years following the merger, but they rejected outright any such protections.
“Instead, Premier Barry O’Farrell and more importantly the National Party has effectively put workers at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy on notice that their jobs are on the chopping block.”