The state opposition has waded into the industrial dispute between the state-owned electrical supplier Essential Energy and its workforce in which around 60 jobs are set to be axed from north coast depots.
Essential Energy employees last month voted to take industrial action over a proposal to slash 800 regional jobs across the state, including the 60 jobs from depots at Ballina, Ewingsdale, Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads, Casino, Kyogle and Lismore.
The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and United Services Union (USU) have since instigated rolling work stoppages and bans on overtime.
The unions say the industrial action is in response to a new workplace agreement proposed by Essential Energy management, which would see job losses and wages frozen for two years.
NSW Labor has called on the Baird government to ensure that management at the state owned Essential Energy ‘sits down and negotiates with its workforce in good faith’.
Acting opposition leader, Adam Searle, MLC, said communities in regional NSW are at risk of disrupted services should the dispute between Essential Energy and its 4,000 staff across the state continue.
Mr Searle said the coalition government ‘must ensure regional communities, including workers, aren’t impacted by a drawn out dispute over a new workplace deal’.
‘The prolonged negotiations have seen management at Essential Energy apply to the Fair Work Commission to cancel the enterprise agreement, putting existing pay and conditions for its 4,000 workers at risk,’ he said.
‘Essential has already cut more than 500 jobs since June 2015, and has flagged it wishes to cut a further 800 jobs by June 2018.
‘The government must intervene and ensure balanced negotiations between the state owned energy supplier and the workers’ representatives.
‘The Baird-Grant government has a responsibility to step in to ensure that local employment opportunities at Essential are maximised.
‘The best chance of this is through fair negotiations between management and its workforce.
‘The government must ensure that Essential Energy negotiates with its workforce in good faith for a new agreement.
‘Seeking to cancel the existing agreement during negotiations is unfair and will only worsen the dispute.
‘If management won’t withdraw the application, the government should make sure it does so fair discussions can take place.
‘With 4,000 employees across regional NSW, Essential Energy is a major contributor to economies in small towns and regional centres,’ Mr Searle said.