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Essential Energy to slash 600 jobs in regional NSW

Essential Energy

One of the biggest employers in regional NSW, electricity distributor Essential Energy, now has the power to forcibly cut 600 jobs after a ruling by the Fair Work Commission.

According to the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the ruling removed a restriction that would allow the distributor to cut hundreds of jobs under a cap agreement expiring by 2018. At the expiry cap, the company will be able to make even further job cuts.

The Commission stated: “In circumstances where Essential Energy, although government-owned, is required to operate as a business producing commercial rates of return rather than as a social service, and is subject to a regulatory regime which forces reductions in its revenue in order to minimise electricity costs to the consumer, it seems to us that a significant reduction in the size and cost of Essential Energy’s workforce has become inescapable,” according to The Australian.

“To maintain a prohibition on involuntary redundancies in those circumstances would simply be a denial of reality.”

There is evidence that Essential Energy plans to decrease its workforce to 1600, which is a loss of a further 1000 jobs, said ETU assistant secretary David McKinley.

“It shows one in two employees from Essential Energy will disappear by 2019,” he told the ABC.

The Commission has admitted the ruling will negatively affect workers and regional communities.

“In the case of Essential Energy, the effects are magnified because of the specialist skills of many of the employees involved, the location of Essential Energy’s depots in country towns scattered throughout NSW and the scale of redundancies that have occurred and that are likely to occur in the future,” said the Commission’s full bench.

“Employees located in country towns will find it difficult to obtain alternative work either of a comparable standard or at all, in their current locations. Job opportunities are generally limited, and jobs involving the specialist skills of electrical tradespersons formerly employed by Essential Energy are virtually non-existent.

“It is likely that many redundant employees will have to relocate themselves and their families … [which] may also have effects on smaller towns in terms of the loss of income able to be spent locally and a possible diminution in community involvement.”

Essential Energy plans to replace its skilled workers with outside contractors. The company has confirmed that job losses will be across the board.

The company’s chief executive, Gary Humphreys, has assured that the redundancies will occur over two to three years, with none to occur before Christmas.

The ETU is seeking an assistance package from the NSW Government to provide help for any Essential Energy workers that lose their jobs, including with retraining, small business advice and recognition of skills and training.

“This decision is one of the biggest blows to employment in regional NSW that has ever occurred,” said ETU organiser Justin Page.



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