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Essential Energy swings jobs axe

Thursday, 4th July, 2019

Essential Energy plans to slash 165 people from their workforce across regional NSW Essential Energy plans to slash 165 people from their workforce across regional NSW

By Emily McInerney

Broken Hill will be impacted by the announcement of job cuts within Essential Energy, but the final number is not yet known.

Essential Energy yesterday announced plans to slash 165 people from their workforce across regional NSW through a process that will force workers to compete with their colleagues to determine who gets to keep their jobs.

The NSW Government-owned electricity distributor - which operates the electricity poles and wires across 95 per cent of NSW - has given workers less than a week to respond to the plan to forcibly slash jobs.

The Electrical Trades Union slammed the announcement, saying the use of forced redundancies along with a “hunger games” style competition between workers to hold onto their jobs was causing unnecessary hardship.

“The loss of 165 skilled jobs at Essential Energy is devastating news, but it’s been made that much harder by the heartless way management are implementing these cuts,” ETU Secretary Justin Page said.

“Workers have been given less than a week to respond to the plan, with the first staff to be made forcibly redundant as early as July 10, but we are examining every legal and industrial avenue available to stop them.

“The worst part is that many of these cuts will be undertaken through what management have called a ‘merit selection process’, which will essentially pit workers against each other to save their own job.

Since 2015, more than 2,000 jobs have been cut at Essential Energy, nearly halving the workforce and drastically reducing the skilled front-line workers available to respond to blackouts, storm damage, or other major incidents.

The company blamed the Australian Energy Regulator for the cuts, saying the money spent on building, upgrading and replacing infrastructure will be cut by 11.5 per cent during the next five years, while general operating expenses need to be reduced by 3.9 per cent.

“Deputy Premier John Barilaro was big on talk at the Nationals conference last week about being willing to stand up to his Liberal colleagues on issues that matter to regional NSW, well here’s his chance to stick up for the bush, demand these jobs be protected, and stop the ongoing gutting of the regional electricity network,” Mr Page said.

An Essential Energy spokeswoman responded to the claims, and said it is not entirely known how Broken Hill will be impacted.

“In Broken Hill, a number of field and non-field roles will be impacted,” she said. 

“The final number will be determined through the consultation process. 

“Essential Energy is continuing discussions with impacted employees and relevant unions.”

She added that Essential Energy is committed to maintaining downward pressure on the network component of electricity pricing by adopting new technologies, improving the way we do business, achieving operational efficiencies whilst ensuring a safe, reliable service for their customers. 

“The safety of our employees and the communities we serve will always be a fundamental priority as we undertake these changes to our business.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said he was thoroughly disappointed to hear about the reports that Essential Energy intended to cut a large number of jobs from regional NSW.

“I am calling for an immediate stop to any decision by Essential Energy to carry out planned job cuts in the regions,” he said.  

“Essential Energy needs to be transparent about any planned decision around their regional workforce.

“I also expect Essential Energy to provide a briefing to all affected regional MPs about any planned forced job cuts.”

Essential Energy employees or their family members who require crisis support are urged to contact Lifeline (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au) or beyondblue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).

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