New Nationals leader John Barilaro will today face his first opportunity to defend regional jobs and services, with the full bench of the Fair Work Commission handing down a long-awaited decision that may allow the publicly-owned electricity distributor to make hundreds of workers forcibly redundant.
Mr Barilaro’s predecessor Troy Grant repeatedly failed to intervene after the NSW Government-owned company took the unprecedented step of applying to unilaterally terminate an existing workplace agreement, which would allow it to remove existing job protections, as well as cutting pay and conditions.
The Electrical Trades Union said the former leadership of the National Party had repeatedly failed to stand up to their Liberal masters in Macquarie Street, with cuts to jobs and services contributing to the shock defeat of the party in the Orange byelection.
The union highlighted written media releases from Mr Barilaro ahead of the 2015 election, saying his new position as party leader and Deputy Premier meant it was time for him to put these pledges into action.
The statements include: “I support lower electricity prices, but I will always lead the charge in protecting local electricity jobs” (9/3/2015), and “a key priority for this government is about creating and securing local jobs” (17/3/2015).
ETU deputy secretary Dave McKinley said the decision, to be handed down at 10.30am in Sydney, was the first test of whether the National Party under the leadership of John Barilaro would fight to protect regional jobs.
“Before the election, John Barilaro talked a good game, making firm promises that he would lead the charge to protect regional jobs,” Mr McKinley said.
“This week, with all the power that comes from being Deputy Premier and leader of the National Party, he has chance to put those words into action.
“If, as feared, the Fair Work Commission opens the floodgates to forced redundancies at Essential Energy, we could see hundreds of highly skilled jobs lost from regional NSW.
“The NSW Government, as the owner of 100 per cent of the company, has the ability to act and save these jobs. All that is missing is the political will.”
Mr McKinley also urged Mr Barilaro to meet with power workers and their unions to discuss the impact of job cuts, outsourcing, reductions to maintenance, and privatisation, all of which were harming the regional communities the National Party claims to represent.
“This is Mr Barilaro’s first chance to show that the National Party has learnt from the Orange byelection result and that they are willing to listen to their constituents and use their power within the NSW Government to defend regional jobs and services,” he said.
“If Mr Barilaro fails this test, delivering more of the same behavior of his predecessor, he simply guarantees the community backlash against the National Party will only grow by the next election.”