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.”