Essential Energy workers are the unsung heroes responsible for saving 182 regional NSW jobs, with the NSW Government order halting the cuts only coming about due to their efforts to meet with local MPs, outline alternative savings measures, and build community support.
The United Services Union said union members at the publicly-owned power distributor, which operates the electricity poles and wires across 95 per cent of the state, had mobilised in a powerful campaign to highlight the importance of these regional jobs and the services provided.
The union welcomed the intervention of Energy Minister Matt Kean, who issued a directive to Essential Energy to halt plans for a first tranche of 182 job cuts, but said politicians had only been able to deliver the outcome because of the efforts of workers.
USU acting general secretary Steve Donley said the union and its members had fought for these jobs through meetings with Essential Energy, industrially through the Fair Work Commission, and in meetings with local MPs in areas affected by the cuts, focusing on the detrimental effect on workers, customers and regional communities.
“When Essential Energy announced that they planned to slash 182 regional jobs, with no consultation or examination of the alternatives, workers didn’t cop it on the chin, they fought back,” Mr Donley said.
“What they demonstrated was union values in action, with workers sticking together, having each others backs, and achieving great things through collective action.
“The uncertainty about job security at a time when drought has devastated so many regional NSW communities only added to their resolve to draw a line in the sand and fight these cuts.
“More than 2000 jobs have been slashed from Essential Energy’s workforce in recent years, and workers knew that further cuts would only add to the enormous pressure they are under to maintain this essential community service.
“The outcome announced by Energy Minister Matt Kean only took place because workers visited their local MPs, showed them there were alternatives to job cuts, and urged them to join the fight.”
Mr Donley said Essential Energy workers had received great support from across the political divide, particularly praising the efforts of Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams, Opposition Leader Jodi McKay, and Swansea MP Yasmin Catley.
“While news that these 182 jobs have been saved is great, the fight is far from over, with Essential Energy still refusing to back down from their plan to cut more than 600 positions by 2024,” he said.
“Our members will not rest until a full commitment is given that protects all these jobs.
“The Nationals made a firm pledge before the last election that they would not allow regional jobs to be cut, and we intend to work with them and the broader community to ensure that is the case.”