Decision sends forced redundancy plans into disarray

AUSGRID and Essential Energy workers have been told of a "stunning victory" after the power companies' plans to use forced redundancies to shed 2395 jobs were deemed illegal.

The Fair Work Commission ruled any non-voluntary redundancies would breach existing workplace agreements, despite the companies' claims they had expired and could be replaced.

Electrical Trades Union members received word of the win in a letter emblazoned with the word "victory" across its header.

"This is nothing short of a stunning victory for ETU members and illustrates to all and sundry that when unscrupulous employers seek to depart from their agreement obligations and attack ETU members they will get the fight they ask for in spades," it stated.

Ausgrid's proposed job cuts would have little effect on the North Coast, as it services Sydney, the Central Coast, the Hunter and Newcastle regions.

But Essential Energy covers about 95% of the area of the state, including 1500 regional, rural and remote communities.

The state-owned corporation announced earlier this year it would eventually cut 1395 jobs across the state, with the ETU estimating about 400 would come from the North Coast region.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the Fair Work Commission's judgment had thrown those plans into disarray.

"Today's decision is a great relief for Ausgrid and Essential Energy workers across NSW who have had the threat of being forced out of their jobs hanging over their heads for much of this year," he said.

"We said from day one that plans by both of these publicly-owned companies to force loyal and highly skilled workers out of their jobs were not just morally bankrupt, they were a breach of industrial law."

United Services Union energy manager Scott McNamara said it also prevented the companies from changing their redundancy policies without first forging a new workplace agreement.

"Today's decision has confirmed that Essential Energy and Ausgrid are not above the law and cannot unilaterally decide to make hundreds of hard-working employees forcibly redundant," he said.

"It is time for management - along with the NSW Government - to return to the negotiating table and have a serious look at the many alternatives to job cuts that are available."