NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance has been accused of inappropriate political intervention after the Crown Solicitor’s Office was instructed to seek to terminate industrial action being planned by power workers in their fight for job security protections ahead of the privatisation of the electricity network.
The Crown Solicitor will today argue before the Fair Work Commission that the lawfully protected industrial action, scheduled to occur next Tuesday, should be terminated or indefinitely suspended.
In their application, made on behalf of Mr Constance in his role as Minister for Industrial Relations, the Crown Solicitor has claimed the four hour work stoppage: “would threaten to puts (sic) physical or mental state of vulnerable persons in the NSW community at risk of material detriment”.
The Electrical Trades Union, which has already offered commitments to both Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy that members will respond to all emergency incidents during the stoppage, accused the NSW Government of attempting to silence workers who were simply fighting to secure their jobs ahead of the planned sale of electricity network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid.
“This intervention has nothing to do with public safety, and everything to do with Andrew Constance and the Liberals and Nationals trying to silence opposition to their unpopular privatisation plans that will decimate local jobs, cut services, and lead to higher prices,” Mr Butler said.
“The ETU has already informed Ausgrid and Endeavour that our members will respond to any power outages, interruptions to supply, or emergency situations that occur during the industrial action.
“The claim by the Treasurer that this work stoppage must be cancelled to ensure public safety is absolutely ridiculous, and is an inappropriate political intervention by a desperate government seeking to silence criticism.”
The union said electricity workers were holding the work stoppage after Networks NSW rejected their offer to accept a reduced pay increase and roll over existing employment agreements which include job protections such as no forced redundancies.
“Mike Baird and Andrew Constance last year gave a commitment that job protections would be provided, but they are now instructing their lawyers to fight power workers using taxpayers’ money to essentially resolve a political problem,” Mr Butler said.
“Whether or not this industrial action is allowed to continue, the fact remains that under the NSW Liberals and Nationals electricity privatisation plans, thousands of highly-skilled, good quality local jobs will be lost.
“Rather than waste taxpayers’ money on lawyers, the Treasurer could resolve this dispute today by accepting our reduced pay offer and agreeing to retain existing job protections.
“We will vigorously argue for our right to take this lawful action in pursuit of a fair outcome that delivers job security for our members in the face of the Liberals and Nationals electricity privatisation plan.”