A leaked management briefing from New South Wales government-owned electricity network business Ausgrid has revealed a plan to slash jobs, close local depots, axe apprenticeships, sell off state-of-the-art training facilities and outsource call centres all in the lead-up to the privatisation of the company.
The state government is committed to selling off 50.4% of Ausgrid on a 99-year lease in 2016.
The NSW branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) revealed that the three-phase plan, due to be rolled out next year, comes on top of the 1100 job cuts in Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley announced by the company in September.
The ETU said the government needs to urgently explain why Ausgrid is planning to make the cuts, which appear to directly breach promised protections for jobs, service levels and apprentice numbers made before the state election.
ETU assistant state secretary Dave McKinley said: "This deeply alarming document reveals Ausgrid management is looking to circumvent promised protections for services and jobs that were made before the election.
"The management briefing outlines imminent plans for the axing of apprenticeships, the sale of training facilities, the closure of local depots, the outsourcing of their call centre — likely offshore — along with reductions to inspections that currently guarantee safety and reliability.
"We fear Ausgrid is gutting jobs and services at the company prior to the [Mike] Baird government's electricity privatisation transaction next year, all in the hope of achieving a higher sale price.
"This is exactly what happened in Victoria when the [Jeff] Kennett government privatised electricity — safety inspections were pushed out by years and maintenance slashed — resulting in the Black Saturday bushfires that killed more than 100 people.
"[Premier] Mike Baird gave a commitment that there would be no forced redundancies, apprentices would have a future and workers would be given five-year employment guarantees. They now appear to have been hollow promises designed simply to get electricity privatisation through the parliament.”
"Cross bench MPs, and in particular [Christian Democrat leader] Fred Nile, must hold Ausgrid and the government to account and prevent their attempt to circumvent the job and service protections passed earlier this year," McKinley said.
Upper House MP Rev Fred Nile, whose vote was crucial to getting the power sell-off through state parliament, said he was "very worried" by the revelations, and would seek an assurance the government would uphold the guarantees in the privatisation legislation. It appears the Nile has been hoodwinked by the Baird government once again and it will require an act of god or, more realistically, mass industrial action by power workers to protect jobs and services in the industry.