Rural and regional communities will be decimated by a decision to slash almost 1,400 jobs at publicly-owned electricity network operator Essential Energy — reducing its workforce by almost a third.
The Electrical Trades Union said the staffing cuts to the rural power company were particularly harsh and unsustainable.
The union also accused Networks NSW and the Baird Government of deceptively blaming the Australian Energy Regulator for the job losses.
ETU assistant secretary Neville Betts said the recent decision from the regulator had reduced the amount of income that Essential Energy could generate from its “regulated asset base” — the poles and wires infrastructure — not what it could earn from other work.
“This decision to slash nearly 1,400 regional jobs is one that has been made by Essential Energy management and the NSW Government, not the regulator,” Mr Betts said.
“Nowhere in the Australian Energy Regulators ruling does it say employee numbers must be cut.
“The union has raised a range of alternative options that could drastically reduce the need for job losses, saving jobs in regional communities across the state while also retaining skills and services.
“One option is for Essential Energy to return to the contestable works market, including the construction of private electricity assets such as substations, electricity kiosks, street lighting, metering, and service wires.
“The company could also use existing equipment and expertise to expand into new infrastructure areas, such as the roll out of the National Broadband Network, as well as looking for cost savings elsewhere.
Mr Betts said that more than half of the 2,751 jobs cuts announced by Networks NSW would come from Essential Energy, meaning rural and regional communities would suffer the greatest impacts.
“Proposed job cuts by Essential Energy represent approximately 30 per cent of their workforce, meaning no area of regional NSW will be spared if they are implemented in a uniform way,” he said.
“The ETU has identified alternative options to keep people employed across regional NSW, so it is extremely disappointing that Essential Energy and the NSW Government have simply resorted to job cuts.
“Prior to the recent election National Party MPs said there would be no job losses from Essential Energy, yet here we are six weeks later talking about savage cuts that will impact most heavily on regional NSW.
“The ETU will continue to identify ways to minimise regional job losses, but this can only happen if Essential Energy and the Government commit to acting on every possible opportunity to keep people employed.”