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:
Olympic Park
Dee Why
Upper Hunter
Current redeployees
Total job losses