The NSW Government is under pressure to close a potential loophole in legislation guaranteeing five year job protections as part of the Baird Government’s electricity privatisation program after Ausgrid revealed plans to overturn the agreement.
Christian Democrats MLC Rev. Fred Nile secured the five year employment guarantees as a condition of his support for the sale of majority stakes in Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy following concerns that jobs could be slashed by new private owners.
The Electrical Trades Union last week held urgent discussions with Rev. Nile after the largest of the companies, Ausgrid, wrote to the union revealing it would be pursuing a potential loophole which it believes will allow the introduction of forced redundancies.
The union welcomed Rev. Nile’s commitment to ensure the Baird Government lived up to the spirit of his negotiated job protections and indicated that he would be seeking to have a clause inserted into sale contract for the 99 year lease to ensure that the job protections are adhered to.
Rev. Nile also indicated that he would seek to amend the Electricity Network Assets (Authorised Transactions) Act when parliament resumes next month to close the loophole.
ETU secretary Steve Butler commended Rev. Nile’s commitment to ensure the job protection provisions he negotiated last year were adhered to by the NSW Government and potential buyers.
“When Mike Baird wanted his privatisation plans approved, he had no problem agreeing to the provision of five year job protections at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy,” Mr Butler said.
“Yet a year on, and while Ausgrid is still in public ownership, we have already got management indicating they plan to exploit a loophole that they hope will allow unfettered cuts to jobs.
“The Baird Government needs to show good faith and ensure the job protections, which were negotiated by Rev. Nile as a key component of the privatisation going ahead, are in fact enforced.
“We welcome Rev. Nile’s proposed solutions, with the combination of a legislative amendment along with a strongly worded clause in the sale contract ensuring certainty for thousands of NSW power workers and the communities they serve.”
Mr Butler said Ausgrid had informed the union that it did not believe the job guarantees would be binding if it could succeed in having the Fair Work Commission agree to the introduction of forced redundancy, possibly through the termination of their current workplace agreement.
“This runs completely contrary to the intention of the NSW Parliament, which voted to support an amendment to legislation that unequivocally stated: ‘there are to be no forced redundancies of continuing employees during the employment guarantee period’,” he said.