ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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MPs urged to support union proposal to save local Essential Energy jobs

- Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Electrical Trades Union has today written to regional National and Liberal Party MPs on behalf of Essential Energy employees living and working across regional NSW, urging MPs to support a union plan to save dozens of local jobs at the publicly-owned electricity network company.

The proposal includes roster changes, job sharing, expansion of non-regulated work, and a mix and match voluntary redundancy program — all of which would result in a reduction to planned job cuts.

In the letter, ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts called on MPs to make representations to Premier Mike Baird and National Party leader Troy Grant on behalf of local Essential Energy workers, as well as raising the plan in the next National and Liberal party room meetings.

The correspondence also outlined how TransGrid, which operates the regionally based high voltage transmission network, had implemented similar proposals, resulting in no jobs being lost despite the Australian Energy Regulator imposing a 25 per cent reduction in the company’s regulated revenue.

The union proposal comes as Essential Energy begins the first phase of job cuts, which will eventually result in 1395 full time positions being lost throughout rural and regional NSW.

Mr Betts said that the first phase of job cuts, commencing this month, would be made up of 454 front-line field workers, 121 office staff, 91 previously redeployed employees, and 34 managers. A further 695 jobs would then be cut later in a second phase at the end of the year.

“The union is extremely concerned by how these job cuts will impact regional NSW communities, with reductions to network safety and reliability along with reduced employment opportunities for future generations,” Mr Betts said.

“We are also extremely concerned about the impact on existing employees and their families across NSW, with these job losses likely to result in serious financial hardship and in some cases forcing families to leave their local communities in the search for employment.”

Mr Betts said the union was also challenging claims by Essential Energy management that the job cuts had been imposed by the Australian Energy Regulator.

“TransGrid, which operates the high voltage transmission network across NSW, suffered a 25 per cent reduction in their regulated revenue under the AER determination, yet they are not laying off a single employee as a result,” Mr Betts said.

“Rather than taking Essential Energy’s simplistic approach of axing more than a third of their workforce, TransGrid embraced similar proposals to those that the union is suggesting, resulting in a better outcome for workers, the company, and consumers.

“We are urging All MPs to champion similar solutions so that the community can be protected from the irreparable damage that will be caused by these wholesale job cuts.”

The union also highlighted a statement by Australian Energy Regulator CEO Michelle Groves who said in response to questions regarding the job cuts: “We have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses. We have approved total revenues for the businesses to recover from their customers.”

Mr Betts said it was Essential Energy management who had attempted to connect the AER outcome with job numbers.

“Opportunities exist for Essential Energy to raise additional ‘non-regulated’ revenue, which if implemented, would minimise regional job losses,” he said.

“The union has also proposed a number of options, including roster changes and job sharing, which would also save jobs.

“For reasons known only to Essential Energy management and Networks NSW, the company is choosing to sack workers rather than look at alternatives that would protect regional jobs.”

Power companies spend almost $5 million to attack workers

- Monday, August 03, 2015
Disclosures by NSW Government-owned electricity network companies have revealed almost five million dollars was spent in just four years to hire external law firms and private investigators to attack their workforces over disciplinary and industrial matters.

Documents released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act revealed Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid spent $4,604,703 on external legal services between 2010 and 2014.

An additional $223,832 was spent on private investigators in 2014, with Essential Energy revealing that more than 90 per cent of their spending on these services involved workers being investigated for “alleged non-compliances” with the company’s code of conduct.

The GIPA documents showed Ausgrid had spent $1,276,013 on industrial matters, $181,673 on disciplinary matters, and $40,569.20 on private investigators. Essential Energy paid $1,457,824 for industrial matters, $21,398 for disciplinary, and $67,847 for private investigators. And Endeavour Energy reported $1,420,000 for industrial matters, $150,000 for disciplinary matters, and $48,149 for private investigators.

Representative from the Electrical Trades Union and the United Services Union said it was outrageous that millions of dollars in public money, that came directly from consumers, had been spent by the management teams at the four public companies to attack their own workforces.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler also highlighted the vast difference between the amount spent by the four companies, with those under the control of Networks NSW chief executive Vince Graham spending on average nine times as much to attack workers and unions.

“Networks NSW have been crying poor in recent months, announcing that 2,800 jobs at Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy need to be slashed,” Mr Butler said.

“What they haven’t revealed is that they were able to find more than a million dollars a year to spend on external law firms and private investigators solely to attack the hard working men and women who maintain our electricity network and respond during natural disasters.

“Transgrid, who announced no job losses following the determination of the Australian Energy Regulator, has also been shown to have far more modest spending habits compared to the remaining three electricity network companies who are currently slashing jobs.”

United Services Union energy manager Scott McNamara said it was particularly concerning to discover that in addition to the large amounts spent attacking workers and their conditions, private investigators had been recruited to spy on employees without any disclosure.

“Last year alone, nearly a quarter of a million dollars in public money was handed over to private investigators so they would spy on the hard-working employees of these four companies,” Mr McNamara said.

“The fact that such large sums were involved, and the spending was spread across all four companies, shows this approach has become common practice among management teams at war with their own staff.

“The NSW Government tries to blame workers for electricity prices, but what they don’t tell consumers is that millions of dollars from their power bills have been poured into the pockets of large law firms and private investigators.

“This kind of behaviour may be commonplace in communist North Korea, but it is not acceptable in NSW, where committed workers dedicate their working lives to serving the public by ensuring they have a safe, reliable and affordable electricity supply.”

NSW electricity network to axe 2749 jobs this year: Companies threaten staff who wish to stay with forced redundancies and lower severance packages

- Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Publicly-owned electricity network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and Essential Energy, have revealed plans to slash 2749 jobs from September this year, offering staff just one week to consult on the proposal.

Regional electricity provider Essential Energy will be hardest hit, with a proposed reduction of 1395 staff accounting for more than half the total job losses, leading to the decimation of services across the state and a massive economic blow for rural communities.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity network workers, slammed the draft redundancy policies released by the three companies, which not only implement the use of forced redundancies, but vastly reduce the severance payments made to employees who “involuntarily” leave.

The unions said long-serving staff who wish to continue working, but are forced out against their will, will be left tens of thousands of dollars worse off under the plan.

The companies have revealed that the intended job cuts will occur in two phases, with the first positions going in September, and the remainder expected to take place from October.

Essential Energy wants to make 1395 staff redundant, with 700 going in the first phase, Ausgrid intends to cut 1100 jobs, with 600 in the first phase, while Endeavour Energy will reduce its staff by 254, with 120 made redundant during the first phase.

TransGrid, which operates the high-voltage transmission lines across NSW, has said it will not be cutting any jobs, instead expanding its presence in contestable work markets to make up for the loss of regulated revenue following the Australian Energy Regulator’s decision.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the draft policies revealed that the three companies already had a “hit list” of staff whose jobs they intended to cut, while all other employees would in effect be required to reapply for their existing jobs.

“These companies have said that the first staff to go will be those who have previously been redeployed, along with those whose job is being discontinued at a particular location,” Mr Butler said.

“They have also revealed is that they already know who these employees are — so there’s a hit list of staff who are to loose their jobs, yet employees have no idea if they are on it.

“For the remaining job cuts, the companies have said a ‘merit based selection’ will be used, essentially requiring all employees to reapply for their existing jobs, with management cherry-picking who can stay and who will go.

“Premier Mike Baird needs to come clean on whether he has signed off on this plan, because on his watch nearly 2,800 NSW families — more than half of which are in rural or regional areas — will lose their primary income.

“When challenged by the union at a meeting earlier this month, the Premier said the government would not expand the work carried out by the electricity businesses in order to keep NSW workers employed.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara criticised the rushed nature of the proposal, which gave employees and their unions just one week to consult on the draft plans, as well as the attempt to blame the proposed jobs cuts on the AER.

“This policy highlights the sham nature of consultation under the Baird Government, with employees given just one week to consult on how almost three thousand people may lose their jobs,” Mr McNamara said.

“Worse still, they are continuing to try to blame the energy regulator for these proposed job cuts, which is extremely deceptive and has already been shown to be untrue.

“While Essential Energy wants to shed almost 1,400 jobs, TransGrid has given an undertaking to expand the current business into contestable works markets, in order to keep all current staff employed.

“This decision to slash jobs is a choice of management — and appears to have been influenced by the NSW Government — but it is a choice they don’t have to make.

“At the Parliamentary enquiry into power privatisation earlier this year, AER chief executive officer Michelle Groves specifically told MPs: ‘we have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses’.”

The unions said the proposed redundancy policies particularly disadvantaged loyal, long-serving staff who wished to continue in their employment.

 For example, a 44-year-old linesperson with Ausgrid who started as an apprentice and has remained with the company for 25 years, would be entitled to a voluntary redundancy package worth 87 weeks pay. But if that same employee wants to keep working for the company, but is then made to take a forced redundancy, that payment would be slashed to 16 weeks.

“This policy of not only imposing forced redundancies, but paying much lower severance packages for them, is particularly nasty,” Mr Butler said.

“It means long serving staff who want to remain in their jobs risk loosing tens of thousands of dollars, essentially forcing people to ‘volunteer’ for redundancy — whether or not they want to leave — or risk being jobless and thousands of dollars out of pocket.

“This is an incredibly nasty way for the Baird Government to treat people who have spent their working lives serving the people of NSW.”

You can read letters sent to the union by the electricity companies outlining how they intend to make staff redundant.

Thousands of electricity network jobs at risk as Baird Government refuses to negotiate employment protections

- Friday, May 29, 2015

Power industry unions are today considering their legal and industrial options following the Baird Government’s failure to consult with the workforces of Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid ahead of their privatisation.

The moves follow a refusal by Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian to negotiate with unions over an employment protections package for workers at the companies, despite pre-election commitments to do so.

Unions sought urgent meetings following the tabling of legislation allowing the sale of majority stakes in Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, and the full sale of statewide transmission business TransGrid.

The NSW Government told unions a pre-existing 30 minute meeting with the Premier next Monday, which was to discuss the impact of the Australian Energy Regulator’s recent determinations and was sought by unions more than two weeks ago, will now be the only consultation over what protections would be put in place for workers and apprentices ahead of the sale.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity network workers, have warned that without proper employment protections in place, private owners will slash jobs, apprentice numbers, close depots and offices, and contract out other services.

“Before the election, Mike Baird told the people of NSW that he would put protections in place to ensure a new owner didn’t slash local jobs, as occurred in Victoria when that state privatised electricity assets,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Last week, Gladys Berejiklian repeated those promises, telling the parliamentary inquiry that the government would consult with all stakeholders.

“Power industry unions have made themselves available for urgent negotiations, including after hours or over the weekend, but neither the Premier nor Treasurer is willing to meet.

“The Baird Government must honour the promises made to workers and the community ahead of the election, including their pledge to consult with workers to ensure appropriate employment protections were put in place prior to legislation passing through the parliament.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara accused Liberal and National Party MPs of going to ground on job protections following the election, with not one standing up publicly to advocate an agreement that would protect jobs, skills and training opportunities.

“Before the election, Coalition MPs and candidates across the state claimed that fears of job losses or service cuts were being exaggerated, and that protections would be put in place as part of the privatisation process,” Mr McNamara said.

“Since being elected, they’ve all lost their voices, refusing to advocate for the local men and women whose jobs are now at risk.

“We are also calling on Fred Nile — who indicated that strong employment protections would be required for him to support this sale — to make clear to the Baird Government that it must consult in good faith with the workforce of these three public companies.”

Mr Butler said workers were simply asking for protections similar to those provided to workers at electricity generation businesses when they were sold by the O’Farrell Government.

“Before the election Mike Baird said that he would protect electricity jobs threatened by his privatisation plan, but now after the election he is refusing to consult on this very issue,” Mr Butler said.

“Previous NSW privatisations, whether done under Labor or the Liberals, have seen appropriate employment protections put in place prior to legislation passing the parliament.

“That process is essential to provide certainty for workers, continuity for apprentice and training programs, and to maintain service standards.

“It is extremely concerning that the NSW Government has decided to jump the gun, tabling legislation ahead of the parliamentary inquiry even handing down its findings or consultation occurring with workers and their unions.

“Beyond any political promises made before the election, the NSW Government has a moral obligation to consult with the workforce of these publicly-owned businesses ahead of their partial or majority sale to a private owner.

“Mike Baird says that NSW has waited twenty years for this privatisation. I’m sure the state can wait another month to ensure it’s done right.”

Power industry unions demand urgent job protection meeting following tabling of privatisation legislation

- Thursday, May 28, 2015

Power industry unions yesterday wrote to NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian seeking an urgent meeting regarding employment protections for workers at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid

The unions threatened to lodge a dispute in the Fair Work Commission, arguing that the NSW Government has breached existing workplace agreements by failing to consult with workers.

The moves follow the introduction of legislation for the privatisation of the three publicly-owned network businesses by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent workers at the  electricity network companies, fear that without proper employment protections in place, private owners will slash jobs, apprentice numbers, close down depots and offices and contract out other services.

Unions are seeking the urgent meeting with the Treasurer in addition to a meeting already scheduled between the ETU and the Premier next Monday to discuss the impact of the recent Australian Energy Regulator determination.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the Baird Government needed to honour pre-election promises to consult with workers and ensure appropriate employment protections were put in place prior to any legislation passing through the parliament.

“Before the election, Mike Baird told the people of NSW that he would put protections in place to ensure a new owner didn’t slash local jobs, as occurred in Victoria when that state privatised electricity assets,” Mr Butler said.

“Previous NSW privatisations, whether done under Labor or the Liberals, have seen appropriate employment protections put in place prior to legislation passing the parliament to provide certainty for workers, continuity of apprentice and training programs, and to maintain service standards.

“It is extremely concerning that the NSW Government have decided to jump the gun, tabling legislation ahead of The Hon. Fred Nile’s parliamentary inquiry handing down its findings or any consultation occurring with workers and their unions.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said there was an urgent need for the NSW Government to provide details of the jobs package that would be put in place.

“Beyond any political promises made before the election, the NSW Government has a legal obligation to consult with the workforce of these publicly-owned businesses ahead of their partial or majority sale to a private owner,” Mr McNamara said.

“Workers are justifiably concerned that a potential owner, whether based interstate or overseas, would seek to slash local jobs and cut back conditions.

“The Premier must ensure that as he presses ahead with his privatisation plan he honours the promises that he made to the public and industry workers ahead of the election.”

ETU warns about tax avoidance, service cuts, job reductions, and price rises

- Friday, May 15, 2015

The parliamentary inquiry into the planned sale of the state’s publicly owned electricity network assets will be given a stark warning today, when unions outline the job cuts, safety problems, price rises and massive tax avoidance that has occurred following interstate privatisations.

In a written submission produced ahead of today’s hearing, the Electrical Trades Union highlighted the history of tax minimisation carried out by the foreign owners of the Victorian and South Australian poles and wires, including one company that had an effective tax rate of zero per cent between 2004 and 2013.

Of the three organisations that dominate the privatised electricity networks, one is owned by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing, while the others are owned by the Chinese and Singaporean governments.

The ETU singled out Spark Infrastructure, which was recently listed as one of the most significant tax avoiders in Australia. Between 2004 and 2013, Spark made an average annual profit of $101.9 million between, yet had an average annual tax rate of zero per cent.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the Australia Tax Office was currently pursuing Spark for $700 million, Mr Ka-Shing is currently shifting his business empire to the Cayman Islands, and Victorian network owners Jemena, APA and DUET have also been exposed as avoiding tax.

“Every member of the NSW Parliament should take a close look at the experiences of Victoria and South Australia, understanding exactly what the impacts will be if our state continues down the path of privatising essential services such as electricity,” Mr Butler said.

“Those states have suffered a loss of recurrent income, consumers pay higher prices, there is more load shedding on the hottest days of the year and thousands of jobs have been cut.

“The failures of regulators, and the lack of accountability for profit-driven private owners, ultimately led to the loss of more than 100 lives when inadequate maintenance on the private electricity network sparked several of the deadly Victorian Black Saturday bushfires.”

Mr Butler said the union, which represents 20,000 electricians and power industry workers across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, had been consistent in its efforts to stand up for the people of NSW, having campaigned for two decades against the sales of electricity network assets, power retailers, and electricity generators.

“During the past 15 years, the publicly owned electricity network has contributed more than $15.5 billion to NSW Treasury, an average of more than $1 billion a year,” he said.

“We believe the people of NSW are best served by retaining public ownership of the network businesses, while realising economic gains for consumers through ongoing reforms including the possible merging of existing distribution network businesses from three to two, creating a single metropolitan network and a regional network.”

The union also raised concerns that the proposed transaction would see a majority stake in Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, along with 100 per cent of TransGrid, being transferred to private owners, most likely based offshore.

“We are urging the parliament to consider alternatives that ensure the NSW Government retains control of this essential service, such as a reduction in the shares to be offered in Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and TransGrid down to 49 per cent,” Mr Butler said.

“We are also concerned about the likely impact on employment, particularly in rural and regional areas where around 40 per cent of the workforce is currently based.

“In Victoria, private owners aggressively cut costs to recoup their investment in the shortest possible time, reducing capital expenditure and maintenance programs, eliminating apprentice opportunities, closing depots, and contracting out core work.

“Based on that experience, we predict the number of electricity workers employed by NSW network businesses could be cut by more than 50 per cent over the coming years if the NSW Upper House vote to support Mike Baird's privatisation plan.

“This will have severe flow on effects for electricity consumers in the areas of reliability, safety, emergency response and customer service standards.

“If this sale proceeds, it is essential that a strong employment protection package is included as part of legislation that applies to all employees and includes a provision for no forced redundancies.”

Click here to view a copy of the ETU’s written submission to the Select Committee on the Leasing of Electricity Infrastructure.

Regional NSW to be hit hard by 1,400 Essential Energy job losses

- Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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.”

Energy Regulator condemns NSW consumers to reduced services without any guarantee power prices will fall

- Thursday, April 30, 2015

Unions have warned that electricity consumers have been condemned to poorer services, reduced maintenance, and slower emergency response times following the decision of the Australian Energy Regulator.

The AER decision, which takes effect from July 1, sets the revenues that publicly-owned network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, TransGrid and Essential Energy can charge private electricity retailers.

The final determination imposes cuts to revenues of 33 per cent for Ausgrid, 31 per cent for regional provider Essential Energy, 28 per cent for Endeavour Energy, 25 per cent for TransGrid, and 32 per cent for the ACT’s electricity network operator ActewAGL.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent workers at the  electricity network companies, said the savage cuts would lead to substantial reductions to service delivery, maintenance, and emergency response times.

They also highlighted that neither the AER, nor the NSW Government, had any legal power to force private energy retailers to pass price reductions on to consumers after retail electricity pricing was deregulated by the Baird Government in July 2014.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said there was no doubt that the response to last weeks major storm event, which cut power to a quarter of a million homes, would have been substantially slower if these cuts had already been in place.

“The Federal Government’s energy regulator has condemned the people of NSW to more blackouts, slower reconnection times, reduced maintenance, and a loss of specialist skills, all without guaranteeing consumers will see one cent of savings on their bills,” Mr Butler said.

“We saw last week why having adequate numbers of highly skilled professionals working on the electricity network is essential.

“Had these cuts already been in place there is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of consumers would have endured significantly longer delays in having electricity services restored to their homes.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said that while the cuts could result in up to 4,000 job cuts across NSW, unions were working with the NSW Government to find alternatives.

“The AER determination is about the revenue network companies can recover from their ‘regulated asset base' and is not connected to employee numbers,” Mr McNamara said.

“The AER determination does not limit the amount of income these businesses can generate from other sources, including in area’s such as contestable work.

“There are many alternatives to mass sackings, and we will not allow management to use the AER determination as an excuse to get rid of thousands of workers ahead of the NSW Government’s planned privatisation.”

Both unions highlighted their commitment to work with the network companies, Networks NSW, and the Baird Government, to identify alternatives to job and service cuts.

“There are a range of alternatives to job cuts that we have already identified,” Mr Butler said.

“There include re-entering the market for contestable work, eliminating the executive bonus scheme, looking for opportunities around the National Broadband Network rollout, retraining and redeploying displaced workers, and using early retirement schemes.

“We are also deeply concerned for current and future apprentices and their ability to secure full time ongoing employment.

“Cuts of this scale risk losing a whole generation of workers — and the specialist skills they possess — leading to inevitable skills shortages in the future.

“One thing that can be guaranteed is that no region of NSW will be spared if massive job cuts are implemented.”

Mr McNamara said the AER had to be honest with consumers, and admit they were powerless to ensure any cuts flowed through to power bills.

“The AER is powerless to force electricity retailers to pass on these reductions, and the experience of Victoria has been that similar reductions simply resulted in retailers taking the additional money as profit,” he said.

“So consumers will receive poorer services, but may not see any financial benefit.

“The AER seems to be relying on the goodwill of private retailers to pass on possible saving.”

The unions also highlighted that the AER was bound by a set of rules when making determinations, and they these had been set out by energy minsters from each state and territory.

They were last agreed to in 2012, when Chris Hartcher was Energy Minister in the O’Farrell Government.

National Party MP’s must rule out Essential Energy job cuts

- Thursday, April 23, 2015

Frontline power workers responding to the major storm damage from the Illawarra to the Mid North Coast have reported that customer reconnections are taking longer than usual as a result of recent job cuts, sparking a call for National Party MPs to categorically rule out any future job losses from Essential Energy.

The Electrical Trades Union said members at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy had reported that emergency response times were slower than in the past — with more than 160,000 homes still without power — due to previous job cuts, including more than 600 from Essential Energy.

ETU assistant secretary Neville Betts called on National Party MP’s to rule out further electricity job cuts across rural and regional NSW, including up to 1,500 Essential Energy workers that are likely to be imminently announced by the NSW Government.

“What we have seen across storm affected areas is lengthy delays in responding to emergencies and slower customer reconnections, both of which appear to be the direct result of recent cuts to the Essential Energy workforce by more than 600 jobs,” Mr Betts said.

“During the past year, Essential Energy has slashed more than 600 jobs through voluntary redundancies, with no replacement staff being put on.

“This week we are seeing the impact of this decision through delays in customer reconnections following devastating storms.

“Next week the Australian Energy Regulator is due to hand down a ruling which the NSW Government is expected to use to announce job cuts across the electricity network, including 1,500 at Essential Energy alone.

“If NSW National Party MP’s fail to stand up against these plans it will result in a 37 per cent reduction in the size of the Essential Energy workforce, crippling their ability to respond to major emergencies.

“The simple fact is that cuts of this magnitude cannot be sustained.

“What we are seeing in areas like Dungog and the Hunter Valley, the Central Coast and parts of Sydney, is customers left without electricity for several days due to inadequate resources.

“The public can expect lengthy delays and more regular network failures in future if Mike Baird presses ahead with significant job cuts.

“National Party MPs must stand up for rural and regional electricity customers by stopping the plan to cut 1,500 jobs at Essential Energy.”

Thousands of homes left without electricity after power workers sent home

- Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reports are emerging from frontline electricity workers about poor management decisions that have delayed the restoration of power supplies to more than 225,000 homes impacted by severe weather earlier this week.

In the worst cases workers were forced to wait more than five hours for equipment and paperwork to arrive, while frontline staff were sent home during the height of the storm, delaying repair work.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler said poor decisions by management coupled with recent cuts of more than 1,000 jobs at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy had resulted in lengthy delays in the restoration of power supplies in Sydney, the Hunter, and on the Central Coast.

“We are getting reports through from frontline electricity workers about questionable decisions made by management over the past seventy-two hours that resulted in major delays to customers having their electricity reconnected,” Mr Butler said.

“The reports from across the Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy network areas include staff who worked on Monday night being told not to return to work until Wednesday morning.

“When these staff reported to their depot at 6am they then had to wait for more than five hours for equipment and paperwork before being able to leave the depot and respond to emergencies.

“In other cases, crews responding to emergencies such as live wires that had come down were told to leave the jobs after just 10 hours of work, potentially putting the public at risk until replacement crews were called in.

“This was despite employment agreements allowing workers to complete up to sixteen hours work to respond to emergencies such as this one.

“Questions need to be asked about these poor decisions by management, especially as the frontline workers were champing at the bit to get customers reconnected.

“Management will undoubtedly try to hide behind safety and fatigue management but this response does not stack up given that this has not been an issue with staff working sixteen hours in past emergency situations.

“If the reason that the emergency response was delayed was simply because the NSW Government owned power companies didn’t want to pay workers penalty rates to respond after hours, then the public deserve to know.

“Reports from frontline workers are that the coordination and management of this emergency by Ausgrid was poorly handled by senior and local managers who have in some cases have only held their positions for a few months and had little or no experience in emergency response.

“Compounding poor management decisions is the fact that Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have slashed their workforce by more than 1,000 staff over the past twelve months, including frontline workers who respond in emergency situations.”

The union said the situation would only get worse in future, with Networks NSW planning to cut a further 2,400 jobs at Ausgrid — which represents 43 per cent of the workforce — and more than 700 jobs — or almost 30 percent of the workforce — at Endeavour Energy.

“You cannot get rid of this many workers and maintain adequate staffing levels to keep the network running in a safe manner let alone respond to a catastrophic event like we have witnessed in the past few days,” Mr Butler said.

“I believe that serious questions need to be asked of both management and the NSW Government about how they plan to protect the public in the future and prevent poor management decisions such as those that have resulted in delays to customer reconnections this week.

“Electricity workers have again put the public first by putting their family life on hold and working around the clock in treacherous conditions to make dangerous situations safe and to reconnect hundreds of thousands of customers.

“It is a shame that the hard work and effort of frontline workers is being hampered by poor management decisions and cuts to frontline jobs.”