ETU Media Releases
ETU Media Releases
For media enquiries please contact George Houssos on 0418 655 682 or Tim Vollmer on 0404 273 313
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The Electrical Trades Union has slammed Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s proposal to introduce HECS-style loans to the TAFE sector, saying it would lump apprentices with huge debts and worsen chronic skills shortages that are already impacting major infrastructure projects.
The union also attacked the Premier’s refusal to rule out the privatisation of TAFE, saying such a sale would only lead to an expansion of the rorts and failures of the scandal-plagued private training sector.
ETU secretary Justin Page said Ms Berejiklian could have avoided an expensive review of TAFE by simply reversing the policies of her government that have caused many of the problems facing the sector.
“Instead of spending millions of dollars on a review of the TAFE sector, which is clearly designed as cover for the NSW Government to further its ideological agenda against quality government-run skills training, Gladys Berejiklian could start by reversing the damage her government has done over nine years,” Mr Page said.
“Since the Liberals and Nationals took power in 2011, what was once a nation-leading vocational training institution has suffered massive budget cuts, the closures of campuses, the axing of courses, huge fee increases for students, and the dilution of curriculums.
“The result of these attacks has been a massive reduction in the number of people undertaking skills training, which is already resulting in chronic skills shortages that are hampering major infrastructure projects and driving huge cost blowouts.
“Introducing HECS-style TAFE fees will only see the price of courses skyrocket, lumping students with huge debts while on apprentice wages, providing a further disincentive to vocational training.”
Mr Page said TAFE was set up to be an affordable alternative to university to provide the practical skills needed to keep the economy ticking over.
“We’ve already seen what happens when this vision is replaced by a private, profit-driven model, and it is the scandals of recent years where training colleges have rorted taxpayers, ripped off students, and failed to deliver the skilled workers we need,” he said.
“This review looks alarmingly like a smoke-screen to justify further ideological attacks on the TAFE sector, using a new fee model to make it even more unaffordable, and allowing the closure or privatisation of colleges.
“TAFE worked well for decades, delivering great outcomes for students and providing qualified, skilled workers for NSW businesses.
“Rather than spending millions on a review that further undermines the sector, we need an urgent reversal of the cuts, fee increases, closures, and diluting of curriculum that are directly responsible for the chronic skills shortages now facing vital industries.”
LENGTHY BLACKOUTS DUE TO SHORTAGE OF POWER WORKERS
Recovery efforts following recent extreme weather have been hampered by a severe shortage of distribution power workers, with the Electrical Trades Union saying lengthy delays to the restoration of electricity to tens of thousands of homes is the direct result of massive job cuts.
More than 60,000 homes remain without power across Sydney, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains — with many to be without electricity until the end of the week — as overstretched crews work around the clock in trying conditions to replace damaged sections of the poles and wires network.
In addition to crews being brought in from around the state, distribution company Ausgrid has reportedly requested assistance from Queensland power companies to cover the chronic shortage of staff.
ETU secretary Justin Page said the large-scale blackouts — which come just months after a previous storm left parts of Sydney’s north shore without power for more than a week — highlighted the impact of 5,000 job losses since 2015 at electrical distributors Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and Essential Energy.
“Our members have been working around the clock in recent days, desperately attempting to restore power to homes and businesses, but the fact is that with 5,000 fewer workers there simply aren’t as many highly-skilled people available to do the work,” Mr Page said.
“Despite the network growing in size, and the risks posed by extreme weather and climate change increasing, staffing levels in the NSW electricity network have never been as low as they currently are.
“Power workers have been doing emergency restoration work for months straight, including throughout the recent bushfire crisis, repairing unprecedented amounts of damage to vital electricity infrastructure.
“But the NSW Government’s privatisation agenda, and imposed cuts from the Federal Government’s Australian Energy Regulator, have combined to drive the loss of 40 per cent of the jobs at the state’s three electricity distributors.
“While the bushfires may have been unprecedented, scientists have long warned that climate change would cause more frequent and extreme weather events, yet rather than increase resources to make our power network more resilient we continue to see the loss of specialist distribution workers.
“Our union has repeatedly warned that the unsustainable slashing of jobs would impact recovery efforts following fires, floods, storms and other natural disasters, yet rather than act on those warnings we have seen the cuts continue, with another 1,300 jobs at risk at NSW electricity distributors in the next three years.
“We need the NSW and Federal governments to learn from the current situation and deliver an immediate boost to the resources available to repair the electricity poles and wires in a timely way following natural disasters.
“Extreme weather events such as storms and bushfires are becoming more common with climate change, so the prudent way to make the power network more resilient is to immediately stop planned cuts and begin rebuilding job numbers to take action on these risks.”
The Electrical Trades Union has been fighting the planned cuts, offering a range of alternate savings measures that don’t require the loss of skilled jobs in the bush or result in reduced services for consumers.
ETU assistant secretary Ben Lister congratulated Mr Kean on the intervention, but also praised the efforts of Deputy Premier John Barilaro and many of his Nationals colleagues who have been fighting to save the jobs.
“Our members could not be happier with the announcement that these job cuts have been halted, and Energy Minister Matt Kean and Deputy Premier John Barilaro deserve genuine praise for their efforts to find a solution that could keep these regional workers employed,” Mr Lister said.
“At a time when communities are doing it tough with drought and a slowing economy, news that one of the largest employers in regional NSW was planning to slash 182 jobs was a devastating blow.
“Since 2012, Essential Energy has nearly halved its workforce, with local communities feeling the pain as wages were removed from local economies and families were forced to move away looking for work.
“As a 100 per cent publicly-owned company, Essential Energy has an obligation to act in the best interests of the communities they serve, which means considering the broader impacts of cuts to jobs and services.
“The Energy Minister’s announcement today provides certainty for workers who had been facing this first round of job cuts, but our fight is far from over given Essential Energy still has plans on the table to slash another 500 jobs — one in every five regional workers — by 2024.
“We will continue to work with the company, the NSW Government, and local MPs to find alternative options that can deliver cost savings and new revenue streams rather than seeing jobs lost.”
Media contacts: George Houssos 0418 655 682 or Tim Vollmer 0404 273 313
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