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Energy workers in jobs stoush

Friday, 5th July, 2013

By Erica Visser

A union has warned that Essential Energy was planning mass redundancies in NSW regional areas, but the company has called the claims dishonest.

The United Services Union (USU), which represents some Essential Energy employees, said that the power company confirmed its plans for job cuts and restructuring during a negotiation meeting with the USU on Tuesday.

However Essential Energy has claimed that no “forced” redundancies will be made, although the company is undergoing reform to “improve efficiency”.

“Our program of reform is being managed by a recruitment freeze, natural attrition and employee initiated voluntary redundancy,” Chief Operating Officer Gary Humphreys said.

“There is no forced redundancy program, and there are no targets.”

The company criticised the USU over what it describing as a “dishonest campaign”.

“This is an attempt to block our employees’ right to apply for a voluntary redundancy if they wish,” Mr Humphreys said.

“The USU has shown it is out of touch with the interests of its members at Essential Energy, and out of step with communities across regional NSW that are seeking relief from increasing electricity prices.

“Essential Energy will continue to implement our reform program sensibly and respectfully. Our focus will be in the interests of our customers, and the many dedicated Essential Energy employees across regional NSW.”

But USU energy manager Scott McNamara said that senior management had told the meeting that it intended to see significant further cuts to employment through regional NSW.

“However they refused to answer questions about precise numbers, the regional depots impacted, or the effects on front-line service delivery for the public,” Mr McNamara said.

“This mass redundancy program is ripping employment out of regional communities.

“Because it is happening in an ad hoc way, where any employee can put their hand up to leave, there is the serious potential for services to be impacted in many regional areas.

“The USU is fighting to protect regional jobs, because once Essential Energy cuts these positions it will be almost impossible for communities to get them back.

“An open ended, unstructured program of redundancy will devastate regional communities, not only through the loss of jobs, but because electricity services will inevitably suffer.”

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