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.”