Essential Energy worker changing street lights.
Essential Energy worker changing street lights. Contributed

Backflip on decision to cut 182 energy jobs

PLANS to cut 182 jobs at Essential Energy will not go ahead.

In July the Electrical Trade Union and Lismore MP Janelle Saffin called plans for the energy provider to cut jobs a "cruel blow” to workers, calling for the jobs to be retained.

Later that month, The Northern Star reported power industry unions reached an in-principle agreement with Essential Energy in the Fair Work Commission that paused planned job cuts until additional consultation took place.

The agreement meant no jobs would be lost before mid-August, with unions given an opportunity to propose alternative cost saving measures and initiatives that could avert the need for redundancies.

Today, Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals John Barilaro announced Essential Energy will halt plans to cut jobs in regional NSW.

He said following conversations between the NSW Government and Essential Energy regarding proposed job cuts to Essential Energy staff he intended on to issue a direction to the power company to halt the proposed job cuts.

"I'm pleased to announce, after weeks of calling on Essential Energy to abandon proposed job cuts, the state-owned corporation will halt this decision, thanks to the NSW Nationals in government,” Mr Barilaro said.

"We worked with stakeholders, we listened to communities, we stayed firm on our position and we've now achieved a major victory for regional NSW.

"From the start, I urged Essential Energy to find further efficiencies without job cuts and that approach has proved successful.”

The Deputy Premier said Essential Energy will report regularly to the government on how it can deliver efficiencies and continue to put downward pressure on network charges as required by the Australian Energy Regulator.

The Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean, said the NSW Government looks forward to receiving Essential Energy's advice and ensuring regional economies are supported during the drought, while also providing regional customers with reliable and affordable energy. 

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis welcomed the announcement.

"I along with my NSW Nationals colleagues have been calling on Essential Energy to reverse any plans to cut jobs and find alternative efficiencies, and today they have finally agreed to do this,” he said.

"Only on Friday I gave Essential Energy workers in Grafton a guarantee that the NSW Nationals would continue to fight these cuts and put pressure on the state-owned corporation to comply with government policy of no public sector job losses in regional NSW.

"Regional NSW is continuing to suffer through the worst drought on record and job losses are the last thing we need.

"Today Essential Energy workers across regional areas can go home to their families knowing their jobs are safe and their future is secure.”

The Electrical Trades Union also welcomed thedecision, saying they had been fighting the planned cuts, offering a range of alternate savings measures that don't require the loss of skilled jobs in the bush or result in reduced services for consumers.

ETU assistant secretary Ben Lister congratulated Mr Kean on the intervention, but also praised the efforts of Deputy Premier John Barilaro and many of his Nationals colleagues who have been fighting to save the jobs.

"Our members could not be happier with the announcement that these job cuts have been halted, and Energy Minister Matt Kean and Deputy Premier John Barilaro deserve genuine praise for their efforts to find a solution that could keep these regional workers employed,” Mr Lister said.

"At a time when communities are doing it tough with drought and a slowing economy, news that one of the largest employers in regional NSW was planning to slash 182 jobs was a devastating blow.

"Since 2012, Essential Energy has nearly halved its workforce, with local communities feeling the pain as wages were removed from local economies and families were forced to move away looking for work.

"As a 100 per cent publicly-owned company, Essential Energy has an obligation to act in the best interests of the communities they serve, which means considering the broader impacts of cuts to jobs and services.

"The Energy Minister's announcement today provides certainty for workers who had been facing this first round of job cuts, but our fight is far from over given Essential Energy still has plans on the table to slash another 500 jobs - one in every five regional workers - by 2024.

"We will continue to work with the company, the NSW Government, and local MPs to find alternative options that can deliver cost savings and new revenue streams rather than seeing jobs lost.”