Essential Energy management this afternoon revealed details of 700 job losses across rural and regional NSW, named 10 depots that will be shut down, and revealed an expansion of the “spill and fill” process that requires staff to reapply for their existing jobs.
Unions said they were particularly concerned by details of how staffing reductions would be managed, with many employees left in limbo for the next month before they find out whether they will be forced to relocate to a different town or lose their job.
In a briefing with unions, Essential Energy management revealed that 122 employees had already “exited” under the cuts, a further 166 were in the process of taking a voluntary redundancy, while a further 412 jobs would go, with many workers forced to wait until October 12 for confirmation of their fate.
Also named were 10 depots that will be closed in this round of cuts, with further closures expected to follow. The depots identified for closure were: Bonalbo, Woodburn, Coolah, Inglewood, Menindee, Bingara, Narrandera, Wentworth, Moama and Darlington Point.
Essential Energy was also accused of lying about the reason for the cuts, with today’s media statement saying: “These reductions are a consequence of the regulatory determination by the Australian Energy Regulator.”
This contradicts a statement by Australian Energy Regulator CEO Michelle Groves, who said: “We have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses.”
The unions also expressed concern that management at the publicly-owned regional electricity network were engaging in sham consultation, with workers reporting to unions that managers had today told them today that no matter what happens, their job will go.
The cuts are the latest phase in a total of 1,395 jobs Essential Energy is planing to axe across NSW. Another wave of 695 cuts is expected to be announced by the end of the year.
The Electrical Trades Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, said the treatment of workers whose jobs have been declared “unfunded” was particularly nasty, with as little as one week of transition training being provided before workers are forced to start using up their own annual leave and other entitlements.
“Almost 400 workers will become ‘redeployees’ under the plan, which we were today told means they will be provided with between one and four weeks of career transition training, then forced to go on leave — utilising whatever annual leave or long service leave entitlements they may have,” ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said.
“This treatment only worsens the distress being suffered by many staff, making an extremely challenging time that much harder.
“Even worse, many workers have been left in limbo after today being notified that their position is ‘potentially impacted’, but that they will need to wait until October 12 to find out if they will be relocated to another depot, either locally or elsewhere in the state, or made forcibly redundant.”
Mr Betts said it was also concerning that the “spill and fill” model would be expanded, with workers required to reapply for existing jobs through a process involving a process including psychometric assessment, selection criteria assessment, and an interview.
“Spill and fill is basically a brutal form of musical chairs, where management remove jobs and force existing workers to scramble for the reduced number that remain,” Mr Betts said.
“It is a process that shows complete disregard for the years of loyal service provided by workers, and pits them against each other in a desperate bid to keep their job.
“The fact that Essential Energy have today told employees that they can avoid this spill and fill process by putting their hand up for a voluntary redundancy is also particularly distressing, and is nothing short of blackmail.”
The ETU renewed their call for local MPs to do everything possible to defend local jobs.
“Last week we wrote to government and non government MPs with job losses in their electorate, asking for their urgent assistance to save local jobs,” Mr Betts said.
“So far just one National Party MP has agreed to meet with others claiming electricity workers campaigned against them in the recent election and there was little that they could do to help.
“We have presented a range of alternatives to the proposed mass sackings — similar to those used by Transgrid to avoid laying off any staff following their own revenue reduction from the Australian Energy Regulator — but Essential Energy management has refused them all.
“Local MPs often claim they support regional employment, but this is their chance to put those words into action.”
Mr McNamara said regional communities needed to understand that these cuts were just the first phase, with the final number of job losses likely to be double.
“Essential Energy have already said they expect to announce another wave of cuts, a total of 695 jobs, by the end of the year,” he said.
“That will mean more jobs gone, more depots closed, and more service reductions.”
MEDIA COMMENT: Neville Betts 0408 520 400
ESSENTIAL ENERGY JOB CUTS BY LOCATION*
*288 employees have already left or are in the process of leaving the company through a voluntary redundancy program. A further 695 regional jobs will be cut before the end of the year.