Unions reject Essential Energy’s 800-job cut proposal

ELECTRICITY provider Essential Energy wants to cut 800 jobs from regional New South Wales by 2018 under a draft workplace agreement.

The attempt, which also called for unlimited job cuts after June 2018, predictably failed to inspire union delegates to sign on the dotted line.

Management announced in September there would be 60 job cuts on the North Coast, including 15 in Grafton and nine each for Lismore and Coffs Harbour.

It followed the Australian Energy Regulator's decision to cut the company's revenue by 30%.

But Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler said more than 1000 Essential Energy jobs had already been slashed since 2013.

"Enterprise bargaining generally means that if you give something up you get something in return, but it seems Essential Energy management think it's a one-way street," he said.

"Not only is Essential Energy wanting to sack people, but they want to slash working conditions for remaining staff as well as implement a two-year wage freeze that will leave people worse off."

Other conditions included a ban on re-employing redundant workers within two years except for casual or temporary positions, and halving the amount workers are paid when called in for emergencies, from a minimum four hours' pay to two.

The requirement for outsourced contractors to be afforded the appropriate wages and conditions would also be removed, Mr Butler said.

"The NSW Government seems intent on slashing regional jobs at Essential Energy, which threatens service standards while maximising the profits they take from rural and regional electricity customers," he said.

United Services Union energy manager Scott McNamara said the company needed to go back to the drawing board if it wanted union support.

"Workplace delegates today reaffirmed their commitment to negotiating a new agreement in good faith and considering any proposal that contained reasonable options," he said.

"But they refuse to stand by while jobs, services and standards are cut across regional NSW."

The company last year said it needed to shed 2500 jobs to remain financially viable. -APN NEWSDESK