ON THE LINE: Essential Energy was granted permission by the Fair Work Commission to release 600 of its staff by 2018, and an unlimited number following that.
ON THE LINE: Essential Energy was granted permission by the Fair Work Commission to release 600 of its staff by 2018, and an unlimited number following that. Marc Stapelberg

Regional NSW bracing for job cuts

STATE-OWNED electricity distributor Essential Energy has permission to cut 600 regional NSW jobs.

A United Services Union statement said the cuts were granted in a decision from the full bench of the Fair Work Commission.

Forced redundancies are expected within weeks.

Restrictions on forced job cuts from July 1, 2018, were also removed in the decision, allowing an unlimited number of skilled workers from regional communities to be sacked.

In the written decision, it was revealed Essential Energy management intended to outsource work to eventually halve its workforce to 1600 employees by the 2019 financial year.

The commission rejected submissions from power unions to ban redundancies before the Christmas period.

It acknowledged the effects of this decision would be significant.

"Employees located in country towns will find it difficult to obtain alternative work, either of a comparable standard or at all, in their current locations,” the commission stated.

"Job opportunities are generally limited and jobs involving the specialist skills of electrical tradespersons formerly employed by Essential Energy are virtually non-existent.

"Such tradespersons may enter the general electrical trade, but that occupation in country areas is already well-populated and highly competitive.”

An Electrical Trades Union spokesman said $1 million would be lost in regional communities for every 13 workers made redundant, based on the average wage of $78,000 to $80,000 of Essential Energy tradespeople.

He said the Coffs Harbour depot had 100 employees, Nambucca 20, Dorrigo eight and Kempsey 48 based on a 2014 report.

Based on the proposed cuts, he said Coffs could lose 50 of its employees by 2019.

It is understood Grafton will be the hardest hit, with 15 positions on the chopping block, followed by Lismore and Coffs Harbour with nine cuts each.

The company blamed the slashing of 700 jobs across the state on the Australian Energy Regulator cutting its operating expenditure by 30% or about $15 million per month.

Already 122 employees have "exited” under the cuts, with 166 more in the process of taking voluntary redundancies, the union said.



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