NSW power workers strike against privatisation

August 30, 2008

Fifteen hundred electricity workers walked off the job on August 29, just 24 hours after the NSW cabinet voted to sell off electricity retail in NSW.

The workers, from power retail and generation, will consider further action at a stop-work meeting on September 2.

United Services Union state secretary Ben Kruse told Macquarie Radio on August 29 that the sell-off would risk the jobs of the mainly female work force in rural NSW and that USU members have "just had it up to the neck".

On August 28, NSW Premier Morris Iemma withdrew enabling legislation — which would have allowed for full privatisation of the state's energy sector — from the NSW upper house, and an emergency cabinet meeting decided on the partial sell-off of retail and property surrounding existing power generators.

At a meeting of Unions NSW that evening, secretary John Robertson told delegates he was "disgusted" with the government's decision to sell off the retail arm. He said the premier should "recognise the will of the people" and "abandon the sell-off of all, or any, of NSW energy".

He also congratulated unions, power workers and community activists for the "no sell-off" campaign.

Robertson said that as there had been no parliamentary vote, there would be "no guarantees on pricing" for energy. Treasurer Michael Costa has already announced that energy bills will rise and blamed the Liberals for not supporting an earlier sell-off.

USU members were in the parliamentary gallery and cheered as Costa stormed out in response to the level of opposition to the legislation. Kruse told ABC News Radio on August 29 that the USU and other power industry unions were determined to fight the sell-off.

The Power to the People campaign group will be stepping up organisation for a protest on September 20. Parliament is due to resume the following week. To get in touch with Power to the People, ring Colin on 0419 698 396.

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