Raising the BARR – Week ending 28 August 2019

A Not Well Kept Secret – Privatisation Leads to Mass Sackings

There has been quite a bit of political attention on the proposed mass sacking of up to 500 workers at Essential Energy Keep in mind that Essential Energy was “protected” from the NSW Coalition Government’s privatisation of our other electricity providers, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.  Currently, the NSW Government is the one and only stakeholder of Essential Energy.

Essential Energy, in a fairly rough description, provides electricity to the rural and regional communities of NSW.  The workforce is generally based in those same rural and regional communities.  The recent focus on the mass job cuts at Essential has been about whether or not the NSW Government would allow these mass sackings, in country communities that are hurting from drought.

At the time that the privatisation model was going through, the point was made to Government that without Ausgrid and Endeavour linked to Essential, and cross-subsidising the smaller and more stretched out Essential resources, that Essential Energy would struggle.  Possible consequences included mass sacking of staff, reduced reliability of the network and much lower investment in maintaining and/or improving services.  All of this advice was not only ignored, it was actually referred to as nonsense and scaremongering by the Coalition Government.

The logic isn’t hard to follow.  (A) Start with a really good product.  (B) Make massive cuts while things are going well.  (C) Ride out the good times for as long as possible and explain repeatedly that the job cuts didn’t hurt.  (D) Profits appear to be good.  (E) Get out before it all comes crashing down.

Meanwhile, what hasn’t been covered with the same attention has been the mass sacking of Ausgrid employees since that same privatisation 4 years ago.  Reports are that up to 600 people have lost their jobs in Ausgrid since 2015 and that there may be a future round of sackings of up to 300 more workers.

Typically, Ausgrid workers have been woven into the fabric of our many Hunter communities and towns.  They are our neighbours, our sporting team coaches, our volunteers and they are the people that have helped to build and run one of the world’s best, safest and most reliable electricity networks anywhere in the world.

The “fair-weather” approach that has been implemented at Ausgrid is now been tried on, by the Government, at Essential Energy.  What we already know in the Hunter is that those job-losses have been crippling to our local economies and families.  And, while the sky hasn’t exactly fallen, there were some very close calls that could have resulted in the network massively failing during these past 2 summers.

No doubt in the coming years the local network will experience failures and there will be breakdowns both from low maintenance and freak weather events.  And when the system fails, we will have to wait longer for the repairs as the workforce has been so savagely cut; and the further you live away from the major cities and towns, the longer you will wait.  Meanwhile the Government assures you that this privatisation is PROGRESS!