Power jobs on the line

Unions claim resources like the Country Energy training centre in Grafton these apprentices are graduating from are under threat if the O’Farrell Government privatises electricity.
Unions claim resources like the Country Energy training centre in Grafton these apprentices are graduating from are under threat if the O’Farrell Government privatises electricity.

UNION officials are concerned more than 200 jobs in the Clarence electorate could be at risk if the O'Farrell government pushes ahead with privatisation of the electricity industry.

The local electrical network in the Clarence Valley is owned and serviced by Essential Energy and employs 221 people across four depots in Grafton, Casino, Woodburn and Maclean.

Electrical Trades Union (ETU) secretary Steve Butler said these jobs would be at increased risk if the privatisation goes ahead.

"Electrical jobs across the state are some of the most highly skilled jobs in regional communities," Mr Butler said.

"The 221 employees, their families and the local economy will be at risk if the O'Farrell government pushes ahead with electricity privatisation."

Mr Butler said past experience in Victoria has shown private owners of monopoly assets identify cost- cutting measurements which result in the closure of many regional depots when the privatisation of electrical networks occurs.

If Essential Energy is privatised, he said, employees at the Maclean (16); Woodburn (3) and Casino (26) depots could be at serious risk of losing their jobs.

"More job losses are the last thing communities need," Mr Butler said.

"The government is yet to decide on a final policy position in relation to the sale of poles and wires (electrical networks), but should it go ahead, there will be massive job losses in areas which cannot afford to lose them."

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and a representative of the premier's office dismissed claims.

"There are no plans to sell poles and wires," Mr Gulaptis said.

They have raised concerns for the future of local Essential Energy employees, now union officials have unveiled an example of what could happen in the Northern Rivers if the O'Farrell Government decides to privatise Australia's electricity industry.

Mr Butler said Victorian consumers suffered when the distribution networks, transition networks and retail sector were sold by the Kennett government in the mid-1990s.

"There were a number of influencing factors which occurred as a result of the sale," Mr Butler said.

"After the sale electricity prices continued to rise when consumers were told increases would not occur and the income generated from the sale was spent and no impact was made on the infra

structure backlog in Victoria.

"Regional communities suffered massive job losses, with some communities failing to recover and the remaining jobs in regional towns were casualised, outsourced and made insecure."

Mr Butler said the Clarence electorate would face similar prospects if the O'Farrell Government pushes ahead with plans to privatise the electrical industry.

"A number of smaller operating depots across regional Victoria were closed as a direct outcome of the sale. This would happen to the Essential Energy depots at Casino, Maclean and Woodburn if Essential Energy is privatised," Mr Butler said.

"In NSW, only the distribution network and the transmission network are owned by the public. They are owned and serviced by Essential Energy, Endeavour Energy and Ausgrid."

The unions are concerned if privatisation of the electrical industry occurs in NSW, communi- ties across the electorate of Clar

ence would suffer financially.

"Locals who are employed in the electrical industry spend their salaries in their local area. They support their local economy," Mr Butler said.

On July 13, Mr Butler contacted Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and asked for a meeting with him to discuss the final policy position surrounding poles and wires.

When The Daily Examiner spoke to the ETU yesterday, they had not received a response.

Illuminating facts and figures

The ETU has revealed through recent surveys 85% of the public remain opposed to the privatisation of the electricity industry. The last public poll was recorded in 2011.

Every 12 jobs which could be lost in Grafton would take $1 million away from the local economy.

Topics:  job loss privatisation

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