Ausgrid executives receive generous bonuses while front-line jobs slashed

Executives at publicly-owned electricity network operator Ausgrid received almost $3.5 million, including bonuses of up to $71,500, at the same time they claimed challenging financial conditions left them with no choice but to axe 553 jobs and reduce services for Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast and Hunter customers.
The company’s annual report, quietly released this month, also revealed that after tax profits for the last financial year were $420.1 million, while the company paid a total of $589.7 million to the NSW Government.
In addition to superannuation and other benefits, Ausgrid chief operating officer Trevor Armstrong’s wage and bonuses totalled $547,717, while fellow executive John Hardwick was paid $502,256. In total, executives at the company received almost $3.5 million, with base wages of $3,036,834 along with $443,222 in bonuses.
The Electrical Trades Union slammed the culture of executive greed, saying it was extraordinary that at the same time apprentice programs were being axed and more than 550 jobs cut, management were pocketing huge salaries and annual bonuses that were larger than many employees’ total salaries.
“Ausgrid is meant to be a publicly owned company delivering an essential service to millions of people in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, the Central Coast, and much of Sydney,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.
“Instead, it is being run as a profit-making machine, with the NSW Government gouging $589.7 million from the electricity bills of homeowners and small businesses, while senior management take home huge salaries and massive bonuses.
“The community was told Ausgrid had no choice but to slash jobs and services because of the financial challenges it faced, yet now we see that those cuts were only necessary because the Baird Government and the individual executives have been lining their pockets.
“What is even more disturbing is that this executive management team and their actions have been supported whole-heartedly by the NSW Government, including local Liberal and National Party MPs.
“These are the actions of a company and executive team that are totally out of touch with the communities they are meant to serve, and quite frankly completely out of touch with the expectations of voters about how publicly-owned utilities should behave.”
A copy of Ausgrid’s annual report is available here: http://goo.gl/BXKGEy

Ausgrid plan to slash jobs and services raises questions about NSW Government’s privatisation protections

Premier Mike Baird’s promised protections for jobs and service levels during the privatisation of publicly-owned electricity network company Ausgrid have been thrown into doubt following the leaking of a management briefing that reveals plans for massive cuts at the company.

The United Services Union said the document had revealed a three-phase plan, to be rolled out over the next year, which would include the outsourcing of call centres, the sale of real estate assets, the closure of local depots, and extensive cuts to service delivery and jobs.

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said the union’s fears about the impact of the NSW Government’s privatisation plans had been confirmed by the document, which revealed massive cuts at the business ahead of the sale of a majority of the company next year.

“Mike Baird and fellow Liberal and National Party MPs made a lot of promises before the election, including commitments that privatisation would not lead to cuts to jobs and services,” Mr McNamara said.

“But this document reveals those statements were simply false, and there is a well-advanced management plan to close down, sell off, or outsource huge sections of the company.

“If Ausgrid management are allowed to press ahead with this program, consumers will find they are calling an overseas call centre in an emergency, that the response times to their issues are reduced because local depots have closed, and that training opportunities for their kids have dried up.”

Mr McNamara said the proposals came on top of 1100 job cuts announced earlier this month, and would further decimate communities across Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

“The Baird Government made big promises to get this privatisation past the public and through the parliament, but they now seem intent to ignore them,” he said.

“Workers are demanding an urgent explanation from the NSW Government about why Ausgrid is planning to make these major cuts – many of which appear to directly breach job and service protections.”

Leaked Ausgrid briefing reveals management plan to axe apprentices, sell assets, close depots, and outsource jobs

A leaked management briefing from NSW 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 in the lead up to the privatisation of the company.

The three-phase plan, due to be rolled out during the next year, comes in addition to 1100 job cuts announced by the company earlier this month, which will come from workplaces in Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

The Electrical Trades Union said the NSW Government needed to urgently explain why Ausgrid was planning to make major cuts which appeared to directly breach promised protections for jobs, service levels, and apprentice numbers made before the election.

“This deeply alarming document reveals Ausgrid management are looking to circumvent promised protections for services and jobs that were made before the election,” ETU assistant secretary Dave McKinley said.

“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.

“The proposals come on top of 1,100 job losses, already revealed by Ausgrid earlier this month, that will see front-line power workers axed across Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle before the end of the year.”

Mr McKinley said thousands of jobs were at risk in what appeared to be an attempt to gut the company ahead of the planned sale of a 50.4 per cent stake in the company next year.

“We fear Ausgrid is gutting jobs and services at the company prior to the Baird Government’s electricity privatisation transaction next year, all in the hope of delivering a higher sale price,” he said.

“This is exactly what happened in Victoria when the 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.

“Outsourcing the operation of the network, including maintenance work, will result in the public suffering more frequent and longer blackouts, as well as posing a risk to worker and public safety.

“Mike Baird gave a commitment that there would be no forced redundancies, that apprentices would have a future, and that 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 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.”

Ausgrid reveals 553 jobs axed across Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Hunter Valley

Ausgrid management this afternoon revealed the locations of 553 job cuts, which will see more than one in every ten employees axed across Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

In a briefing to unions, Ausgrid confirmed that these cuts were in addition to 258 staff who had left voluntarily during the past two months, and that a further phase of 500 job cuts would take place later this year.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent Ausgrid workers, said that the full scale of the cuts would mean that in just six months a quarter of the company’s workforce would be terminated.

The unions expressed particular concern that alternative options to maintain employment had not been taken, and that the company appeared to be pressing ahead with forced redundancies for more than half of the cuts announced today.

The company revealed that, in addition to 146 staff who have previously been redeployed, there would be the following local job cuts: 145 in the City of Sydney, 82 in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, 74 in Sydney’s West, 47 on the North Shore and Northern Beaches, 32 on the Central Coast, and 27 in Sydney’s South.

ETU organiser Mark Buttigieg said the union had written to government and opposition MPs in electorates impacted by the cuts, urging them to support a plan to save local jobs at the publicly-owned electricity network company.

“It is extremely disappointing that Ausgrid management have failed to accept a range of union proposals that would result in a substantial reduction in the number of job cuts,” Mr Buttigieg said.

“We have provided details of these proposals – including roster changes, job sharing, expansion of non-regulated work, and a mix and match voluntary redundancy program – to MPs and urged them to make urgent representations to Premier Mike Baird on behalf of local Ausgrid workers.

“We have also called on them to publicly oppose these job cuts, support the retention of highly skilled front-line power jobs, and raise the alternatives to job cuts in their party room meetings.”

Mr Buttigieg said the correspondence also outlined how TransGrid, which operates the high voltage transmission network, had implemented similar proposals, resulting in no jobs being lost despite the Australian Energy Regulator imposing a 25 per cent reduction in the company’s regulated revenue.

“Ausgrid management claim their hands are tied, that they need to cut these jobs, but it simply isn’t true,” he said.

“Transgrid has used very similar strategies to those suggested by the ETU to ensure not one job needs to be cut, despite having a similar reduction to their regulated revenue imposed by the Australian Energy Regulator.

“AER CEO Michelle Groves made the same point earlier this year, when she told a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry that: ‘We have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses’.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said affected communities needed to understand that these cuts were just the first phase, with the final number of job losses likely to be double.

“Ausgrid have confirmed today that they expect to announce another wave of 500 job cuts by the end of the year,” Mr McNamara said.

“In total, with jobs cuts announced today and staff that have left over the last two months, that will mean a quarter of the company’s workforce gone.

“Not only will this have devastating impacts on many local communities, it will result in a reduction to services for consumers, slower responses following emergencies and natural disasters, and poorer maintenance.”

Ausgrid job losses (Phase 1) by location:
Charlestown
3
Olympic Park
4
Chatswood
23
Ourimbah
30
Dee Why
1
Silverwater
7
Haberfield
2
Sydney
138
Homebush
61
Tuggerah
2
Hornsby
23
Upper Hunter
2
Maitland
2
Wallsend
72
Muswellbrook
3
Zetland
7
Oatley
27
Current redeployees
146
Total job losses
553

The liberal party Kill Free to air to Protect Pay TV interests

If you’ve channel surfed around free to air TV lately you’ll know that its piled thick with non-stop infomercials and fairly old stale entertainment. Of course you can still catch the latest reality show, but that’s only because their cheap to make and turn out.got1

The problem with free to air TV goes right back to the introduction of digital TV. The Howard government at the time decided to protect the interests of a few corporations in Australia (prime, nine, ten etc. and Foxtel) by preventing which TV stations could be on the digital spectrum. This despite offers by channels such as comedy central, MTV, various movie channels etc. (previously forced onto the Foxtel platform) to provide ad supported free to air services.

This was the beginning of the liberal governments protection of Foxtel, a company owned by News Corp an American corporation sending its profits overseas and Telstra a company owned by the rich in this country.

But wait wasn’t Telstra bought by Mom and Pop investors? You show me one person on a basic wage who owns telstra shares and I’ll believe that! Telstra was an asset owned by everyone in this country, sold out from under us by the Coward government to the upper middle class and the rich.

Pay TV did not always have adverts, this was something that was allowed by the liberal government. Not satisfied with subscription fees greedy Foxtel wanted its share of the advertising cherry. This was resisted by the free to air stations at the time, but their protests fell on deaf ears.

So now suddenly there was less advertising revenue available to the free to air stations, less revenue with which to buy quality first run entertainment. Foxtel of course had a bonanza cherry-picking the available advertising on the basis that they did have first run shows – shows they now have a virtual monopoly on.

Foxtel should never have been allowed to have advertising as you already pay to access it, that is you have already paid for the content – instead Foxtel is allowed to charge you twice for the same programs. Free to air TV  only charges you once, how is this a fair and competitive situation?

Governments have been asking the question recently, why Australia is one of the worst pirating nations in the world. The answer is fairly simple: when you allow one company to monopolize what people see locked behind extortionist subscription fees, rather than legislating so that free to air TV must run a program first, people are likely to rebel against the higher cost of accessing entertainment.

Not surprisingly the loudest voice against piracy in a recent forum organized by the federal government was Foxtel. The other parties suggested a wide range of reasonable solutions but Foxtel stood out as wanting piracy sites outright banned. It is therefore strange that just precisely what Foxtel alone wanted to happen indeed did happen through recent legislation.

Of course when we look at political donations to the Liberal party its fairly clear why Foxtel is allowed such a free reign. It was revealed recently that The Australian Screen Association which represents 20th Century Fox who are owned by News Corp who also own …you guessed it Foxtel, donated $4 million in political donations since 1988.

The liberal governments of Howard and Abbott have done nothing but pander to Foxtel’s interests and the free to air TV we are all supposed to enjoy has suffered accordingly.

 

 

Power workers braving dangerous weather fear pending staff cuts will impact future emergency response times

Power workers have braved treacherous conditions over the past 24 hours to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses as wild weather brought down trees and power lines across Sydney, the Illawarra, the Central Coast and Newcastle.

The Electrical Trades Union praised the efforts of thousands of its members who responded to hundreds of calls for assistance after heavy rain and strong winds cut power supplies.

ETU organiser Justin Page said that while most people in the community sheltered at home, away from the wild weather, thousands of electricity workers spent the night in driving rain and strong winds to restore electricity supplies and remove dangerous power lines that had been brought down.

“While most people were in bed last night, thousands of electricity workers worked through the night in dangerous conditions to protect the public from downed power lines and to restore power to more than 130,000 homes and businesses,” Mr Page said.

“What we saw last night was nothing short of devastation, and the clean-up task – including the restoration of power – will continue for several days to come.

“As always, electricity workers put the community first by working around the clock responding to emergency call outs, and the ETU believes these workers deserve recognition for their selflessness and committed service to the public in extremely dangerous conditions.”

Mr Page said that power workers were fearful that proposed job cuts in the sector – which could see more than 4,000 staff axed across NSW – would have a major impact on future emergency responses.

“If the Baird Government presses ahead with cuts of more than 4,000 electricity workers – including frontline emergency response crews – the public can expect to wait much longer to be reconnected following future storm events like the one we have just experienced,” he said.

“The people of NSW pay their electricity bills and expect to receive the highest levels of service during storms, bushfires and other natural disasters, however current service levels will simply not be possible with the frontline job cuts being considered by the NSW Government.

“While these workers were out in force last night, the NSW Government is continuing to refuse to sign a new workplace agreement that would provide reasonable job protections for them by ruling out forced redundancies at network businesses Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.”

Baird Introduces the first state pseudo GST

In an act of monumental stupidity the working people of NSW re-elected the Baird NSW government recently. Now like most right-wing leaders of his ilk Mr Baird is dancing around using the word “mandate ” like it has been sent by god. This despite the fact that there was a considerable swing in voting against the NSW liberals.

baird

One of the biggest issues of the election, the privatization of electricity infrastructure, was probably the easily most misunderstood by the voting public and despite a vigorous campaign by the opposition to highlight it the message fell on deaf ears.

We have only to look to Victoria to see just what affect such privatization has had on electricity prices for the average consumer; prices for electricity supply reached and are still at their highest in decades. One of the biggest outgoings for the average family home has become paying energy costs brought about by the greedy price hiking of the infrastructure (in Victoria’s case owners) like Ausnet.

Wait you thought these lessees were just leasing the infrastructure, but not to make money out of it..this is at least what Mr Baird would have you believe! Naturally they intend to make mega millions in profits, at minimum four times their initial outlay. But where is this money going to come from, oh of course the power bills of you and me.

So why is this new expense waiting in the wings a pseudo GST? Because its a new tax where a person earning a million dollars a year and a person on welfare struggling pay exactly the same amount hiked onto their power bills.

Of course Mr Baird has said he is going to spend the money (which he coincidentally is getting all up front)  from this “Energy GST” building schools, hospitals, roads, public transport etc etc. We’ve heard it all before of course, the money will go straight into general revenue and be spent where it can be of benefit to liberal party voters. We will of course all be paying for this for years though with the money quickly spent on rich peoples agendas before we can protest. It won’t matter if people wake up to the fact that they have been duped, because liberal or Labor government we’ll still be paying the energy GST for years to come.

Privatization of public resources has been tried and failed miserably in almost every Western country; all that has resulted is a massive rise in the cost of living for those who can afford it least and pensioners going cold in winter.

 

Free Speech Takes another dive in Australia

While the federal government is desperately trying to give “free Speech” to brain dead Red necks to racially vilify others, another drama is unfolding.

Recently Gina Rinehart took offence to Channel Nine’s mini series about her family and sought an injunction to have it kept off television. Unlike the rest of us who must simply bear what the free press prints or publishes about us accepting that that is what democracy is about, Rinehart used her billions to put a spanner in the works in court.

Gina Rinehart speaks at a CHOGM event in Perth.

Its important to note that her injunction didn’t actually say the mini series was in majority untrue, just that it made her and her family look bad. This is one of the major problems with people saying something defames them, it only means it subjects them to public ridicule or scrutiny; often its still the absolute truth and as a democracy we should be entitled to that truth.

What is appalling is that one person can decide with their money what the press (in this case the TV) say with their high priced lawyers.

This is a signal to Australian governments that its high time for laws to protect the freedom of the press in this country. Every other civilized Western democracy has such laws, we are trailing far behind.

Of course the upshot for “House of Hancock” will be that more people will watch it than previously would have (even in altered form) due to the controversy this has created, Gina’s attempts to impede free speech will have backfired on her.

Rinehart is also often outspoken about the wealthy somehow having the responsibility to better manage things: recently she was on her soap box speaking out against “socialist-type” governments being the real enemy of working Australians! Saying we have to get through the “class warfare smokescreen” – yes after all how can the rich continue to just get richer otherwise. It seems we all just need to “work harder” and harder to help fill the coffers of people like her and somehow trust them to look after us with a trickle downwards to live at subsistence levels. Sounds completely rational to me..well maybe if I was a billionaire who inherited everything I have!

 

Contraception for Unemployed People

Reaching new lows, ratbag ex-labor Minister Gary Johns has suggested that people on unemployment benefit should be forced to use contraception to prevent them from breeding children which would also then need to be supported by the state. Why doesn’t he just say what he means and suggest sterilization, I mean lots of logical arguments justified it for the nazi’s?!Repugnant ... Gary Johns believes there should be no ‘taxpayer inducement’ to have childr

This follows on from similar rumblings from the Abbott government that the unemployed might be forced to undergo compulsory drug tests to continue receiving payment.

It seems anything is ok when it comes to this Open Season on unemployed people, who through no fault of their own are out of work.

The Government it seems has callous disregard for the unemployed and are quite happy to continue to bash them to divert attention away from the real bludgers in Australian Society: Corporations that pay 1% tax and self-funded millionaire “retirees” who pay no tax.

It is no coincidence that these are primarily Liberal National Party supporters and voters. Whereas very few unemployed people would have been insane enough to have actually voted for this current government who uses them as whipping boys for their mistakes.

Prince Andrew Named in Underage Sex Claims

It seems the reputation of the royal family has just taken another dive with allegations surfacing in a US court this week that Prince Andrew engaged in orgies with an underage sex slave. FILE - This Monday, March 7, 2011 photo from files shows Britain's Prince Andrew, arriving in Canary Wharf, to visit the hea...

The woman who can only be identified as “Jane Doe” alleges she was kept as a sex slave between 1999 and 2000 and forced to engage in relations with the prince at the behest of his friend Jeffrey Epstein – Epstein is a convicted pedophile.

Whilst Prince Andrew is entitled to his day in court I wonder whether this matter will be as ruthlessly pursued and investigated as Operation Yewtree in which for example Rolf Harris succumbed to convictions.

The Royal family have for many years been oblivious of the law of the land in their own England, with a long history of scandals and wrongdoing being hushed up, only to be later revealed years later by honest journalists.

 

 

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