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Massively exaggerated numbers being used to promote the sale of NSW electricity network

Paul Lister - Thursday, June 20, 2013

Claims that the sale of the state’s electricity network could boost the state’s capacity for infrastructure spending by more than $50 billion are an enormous exaggeration, demonstrating proponents don’t understand the actual value or current financial position of the publicly owned electricity companies.

The Electrical Trades Union and United Services Union, who are leading a community campaign against the privatisation of the state’s electricity network, said Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and the NRMA needed to look beyond their own spending wish-lists and examine the economic evidence.

“Brendan Lyons, CEO of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and former staff member to Bruce Baird, is claiming a potential sale could boost infrastructure spending by $50 billion, but when you look at the annual reports of the public energy companies they tell a completely different story,” USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said.

“The four electricity network companies are currently valued at $25 billion best case scenario, but they are also burdened by large debts, currently totalling about $18 billion according to their annual reports.

“This money must be repaid if they are sold, meaning the NSW Government would be left with just $7 billion from the sale of this essential service or the equivalent of 3 years of dividends and government income.

“When you consider that the NSW Government currently receives $2.5 billion a year from these companies through dividends and other income — money that currently funds schools, hospitals and community services — then it becomes clear that a sale does not make economic sense.”
 
Unions believe the experiences of electricity privatisation in Victoria and South Australia, where they were sold in the 1990s, should also be examined before advocating a sale.

“Following the privatisation of the poles and wires in South Australia that state has among the highest electricity prices in Australia” Mr Kelly said.

“In Victoria, Black Saturday bushfire victims are currently suing the foreign multi-national owner of the electricity network who’s alleged lack of maintenance sparked several of the deadly blazes.

“The transmission network and the poles and wires running down every street across NSW are a natural monopoly, with no possibility for competition, meaning consumers will inevitably lose out.

“History has shown that consumers would pay more for electricity while suffering poorer reliability. Privatisation hasn’t worked elsewhere and it will not work in NSW.

NSW Government refuse to protect electricity jobs

Paul Lister - Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rural and regional energy sector workers feel justifiably betrayed by the NSW Government after it refused to support legislative amendments that would provide certainty over job numbers as part of a merger of the boards of the state’s three electricity network operators.

The United Services Union and Electrical Trades Union said the O’Farrell Government’s reforms to the electricity network, which sought to save $400 million dollars, had already seen almost 800 jobs lost through natural attrition, with fears of more to come.

A number of amendments that sought to protect existing staffing and service levels in rural and regional areas were rejected by the Liberal and National Parties in the Upper House.

United Services Union energy, utilities and private sector manager Scott McNamara said unions had put forward a series of recommended amendments to the legislation to merge the boards of Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy that would prevent the merged board from:

  • transferring existing jobs away from regional communities;
  • making existing regional positions redundant; and
  • reducing the number of employees at each of the respective electricity distributors.

“These amendments were about trying to protect rural and regional communities throughout NSW that are reliant on the jobs provided by the electricity distributors,” Mr McNamara said.

“The O’Farrell Government showed its true colours yesterday when it formally rejected several amendments from the Opposition and minor parties that would have gone some way to protecting jobs and services in regional communities, but it’s not too late for them to stand up for regional NSW.

“Electricity unions want to make it clear to the O’Farrell Government that essential services like the electricity network are of vital importance to rural and regional communities, and that these areas will most acutely feel any reductions in service delivery and maintenance standards.

“The O’Farrell Government claimed their reforms would save money by reducing duplication of corporate services, standardising IT systems and delivering economies of scale in purchasing, but what they’re doing by refusing to provide job security for staff in regional communities is admit the savings will actually come from job cuts.

“The flow on effects for the broader economies and communities of regional areas impacted by power network job cuts will be massive.”

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler said the merger of the boards of the three electricity network operators, which has passed through the lower house of NSW Parliament, now meant hundreds of jobs were under threat despite promises made by the Premier.

“Following the government announcement that they would merge the electricity companies the Premier himself flew to Port Macquarie and gave a guarantee to locals that there would be no job losses, a commitment that was repeated by Treasurer Mike Baird only last month,” Mr Butler said.

“It now appears the Government has abandoned this commitment.

“The NSW Government last night had a chance to support regional communities across NSW by backing a sensible amendment to protect jobs in rural centres for at least five years following the merger, but they rejected outright any such protections.

“Instead, Premier Barry O’Farrell and more importantly the National Party has effectively put workers at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy on notice that their jobs are on the chopping block.”

AMPControl To Slash Up To 100 Hunter Valley Jobs

Paul Lister - Friday, May 24, 2013

AMPCONTROL, one of the Hunter Valley’s largest private electrical engineering and manufacturing companies is set to slash up to 100 jobs in the Hunter Valley despite offers of assistance from employees.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) were told this week that the company will be making an announcement next Tuesday on jobs cuts with affected staff being told to pack their bags by Wednesday.

ETU Organiser Russell Wilson said that the unions went to the company with a plan to reduce the number of working days from five to four to assist the company but this was rejected by the company without consideration.

“We went to the company with an offer of assistance but management are more interested in making people redundant than working together to get through a tough period.” said Mr Wilson.

“The company will not tell us how many employees are going to be laid off but we have heard rumours that it could be as many as one hundred local jobs that disappear overnight.”

“Management would know by now exactly how many people are going to be affected but they are keeping it secret until next Tuesday and giving those dedicated employees that lose their job just twenty four hours to leave.”

“I think this is totally unacceptable, the company has a moral responsibility to its employees to at least give them a few weeks’ notice and to assist them in transitioning into alternative employment.”

AMWU Organiser Todd Nickle said that his members feel like they have an axe hanging over their head every day they turn up to work.

“These highly skilled workers have been turning up to work each day not knowing if they will have a job tomorrow,

“The company admits on their website that their success has only been made possible because of their loyal and dedicated workforce yet they make secret plans to sack up to one hundred people, it’s just a disgrace.” Mr Nickle said.

“We are calling on Geoff Lilliss and the board to reconsider the need to sack any workers and if they are going to sack people we are asking management to provide appropriate notice and to assistance people in the transition to new employment.” said Mr Nickle.

Hundreds of Snowy Hydro jobs at risk under Abbott’s Commission of Audit

Angela Lordan - Friday, May 17, 2013

The Snowy Hydro looks set to be sold off, with hundreds of jobs lost from the region, if the Coalition wins this year’s federal election, the Electrical Trades Union has warned.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler said Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech would have sent a shiver down spines across the region.

“We have grave concerns for the future of the Snowy Hydro after Mr Abbott’s budget reply speech,” Mr Butler said.

“The Opposition Leader has committed to a federal commission of audit. Experience from both NSW and Queensland state commissions of audit shows what will happen: it will recommend to sell commonwealth assets including the federal government’s 13 per cent stake in Snowy Hydro.

“It is highly likely that the audit will recommend the wholesale privatisation of the iconic Snowy Hydro, which would be a devastating blow for the region.

“Snowy Hydro is one of the largest employers in the region. Its sale would put hundreds of jobs at risk, because the buyer will already have an established head office either overseas, or in Sydney or Melbourne. 

“But an equally painful blow to the region would come from lost revenue. The public would lose millions of dollars in dividends that currently help fund vital services like schools, hospitals and roads.”

Mr Butler said the federal election in September would be a pivotal moment in the Snowy Hydro’s proud history.

“Ben Chifley would be turning in his grave at the prospect of privatising Snowy Hydro, a project of vision and foresight that his government supported back in 1949 for the benefit of future generations.

“The federal election will now be a referendum in Eden-Monaro on whether or not to privatise the Snowy Hydro,” he said.

“Labor has categorically ruled out any sale of the Commonwealth Government’s 13 per cent stake in Snowy Hydro, which effectively secures public ownership of the asset should Labor win the election. 

“The choice for Eden-Monaro voters is clear: a Coalition government that will sell Snowy Hydro or a Labor government that will keep it in public hands.”

Parramatta: campaign against electricity network privatisation

Paul Lister - Friday, April 26, 2013

Electricity unions will today unveil a prominent billboard on a major road artery in Parramatta as part of a $1.5 million dollar community campaign highlighting the dangers of privatising the electricity poles and wires monopoly.

The billboard — on James Ruse Drive opposite Rosehill Racecourse — is one of several that have been installed this week, coinciding with a print and radio advertising campaign.

The campaign comes ahead of the release of a NSW Government report into how an electricity network privatisation transaction may take place — one of the key recommendations arising from the NSW Commission of Audit.

The ad blitz also comes as new polling reveals the Western Sydney community is overwhelmingly opposed to any plan to privatise the State’s electricity poles and wires, with strong concerns that a sale would lead to increased power prices.

The poll of 200 people across West and South West Sydney — commissioned by the Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union, Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia and the Public Service Association — found 87 per cent believe the electricity network is an essential service that should remain in government hands.

Just 17 per cent agreed that the poles and wires should be sold to fund other infrastructure projects, while 85 per cent said they believed a sale would lead to power prices going up and 91 per cent said a foreign company should not be allowed to buy the network.

“It is time for the O’Farrell Government to come clean with the people of NSW about their plans,” ETU Western Sydney Organiser Mark Buttigieg said.

“Publicly they keep trying to deny that a sale is on, but at the same time they are currently producing a report on how the privatisation of the electricity poles and wires might work, following the recommendations of the NSW Commission of Audit.

“And they can’t even get their stories straight, with the NSW Treasurer saying the privatisation was being considered to plug a budget black hole earlier this year while the Premier said the exact opposite just a couple weeks later.

“We want local Liberal MPs Geoff Lee, Tony Issa and David Elliott to be up front with the local community and reveal, once and for all, whether they support the sale of this essential service, or whether they will fight against it in the party room.

“When asked, the Western Sydney community overwhelmingly opposed any proposed sale.

“Now it is time for our local MPs to publicly reject any plans to privatise the state’s electricity network to private interests and commit to keeping the poles and wires in public hands.”

United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said the community clearly recognised the negative consequences of privatisation in other states.

“The experiences of network privatisation in Victoria — where Black Saturday bushfire victims are currently suing the foreign multi-national whose faulty maintenance of the electricity network sparked several of the deadly blazes — seemed to weigh heavily on many of the people who were polled,” Mr Kelly said.

“A staggering 91 per cent said foreign companies should not be allowed to own important infrastructure such as our electricity network.

“Following the privatisation of the poles and wires in South Australia, that state now has the highest electricity prices in Australia.

“Here in NSW, the community gets the benefits of the dividends paid by these state-owned corporations, which deliver more than $2.5 billion every year to the state’s coffers to fund hospitals, schools and community services.

“The transmission network and the poles and wires running down every single street across NSW are a natural monopoly, there is no possibility of competition.

“A privatised electricity network makes it impossible for consumers get a good deal when it comes to price, maintenance and service delivery, as they have no other choice.”

Penrith: campaign against electricity network privatisation kicks off with billboard on major artery

Paul Lister - Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Electricity unions will unveil a prominent billboard on a major road and rail artery in Penrith tomorrow as part of a $1.5 million dollar community campaign highlighting the dangers of privatising the electricity poles and wires monopoly.

The billboard — on the Great Western Highway opposite Nepean Hospital — is one of several that will be installed this week, coinciding with a print and radio advertising campaign.

The campaign comes ahead of the release of a NSW Government report into how an electricity network privatisation transaction may take place — one of the key recommendations arising from the NSW Commission of Audit.

The ad blitz also comes as new polling reveals the Western Sydney community is overwhelmingly opposed to any plan to privatise the State’s electricity poles and wires, with strong concerns that a sale would lead to increased power prices.

The poll of 200 people across West and South West Sydney — commissioned by the Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union, Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia and the Public Service Association — found 87 per cent believe the electricity network is an essential service that should remain in government hands.

Just 17 per cent agreed that the poles and wires should be sold to fund other infrastructure projects, while 85 per cent said they believed a sale would lead to power prices going up and 91 per cent said a foreign company should not be allowed to buy the network.

“It is time for the O’Farrell Government to come clean with the people of NSW about their plans,” ETU assistant secretary Paul Sinclair said.

“Publicly they keep trying to deny that a sale is on, but at the same time they are currently producing a report on how the privatisation of the electricity poles and wires might work, following the recommendations of the NSW Commission of Audit.

“And they can’t even get their stories straight, with the NSW Treasurer saying the privatisation was being considered to plug a budget black hole earlier this year while the Premier said the exact opposite just a couple weeks later.

“We want local Liberal MPs Stuart Ayres, Tanya Davies and Bart Bassett to be up front with the local community and reveal, once and for all, whether they support the sale of this essential service, or whether they will fight against it in the party room.

“When asked, the Western Sydney community overwhelmingly opposed any proposed sale.

“Now it is time for our local MPs to publicly reject any plans to privatise the state’s electricity network to private interests and commit to keeping the poles and wires in public hands.”

United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said the community clearly recognised the negative consequences of privatisation in other states.

“The experiences of network privatisation in Victoria — where Black Saturday bushfire victims are currently suing the foreign multi-national whose faulty maintenance of the electricity network sparked several of the deadly blazes — seemed to weigh heavily on many of the people who were polled,” Mr Kelly said.

“A staggering 91 per cent said foreign companies should not be allowed to own important infrastructure such as our electricity network.

“Following the privatisation of the poles and wires in South Australia, that state now has the highest electricity prices in Australia.

“Here in NSW, the community gets the benefits of the dividends paid by these state-owned corporations, which deliver more than $2.5 billion every year to the state’s coffers to fund hospitals, schools and community services.

“The transmission network and the poles and wires running down every single street across NSW are a natural monopoly, there is no possibility of competition.

“A privatised electricity network makes it impossible for consumers get a good deal when it comes to price, maintenance and service delivery, as they have no other choice.”

Campaign against electricity network privatisation kicks off with billboard on M5 at Revesby

Paul Lister - Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Electricity unions will unveil a prominent billboard on the M5 at Revesby tomorrow as part of a $1.5 million dollar community campaign highlighting the dangers of privatising the electricity poles and wires monopoly.

The billboard — near Horsley Road — is one of several that will be installed this week, coinciding with a print and radio advertising campaign.

The campaign comes ahead of the release of a NSW Government report into how an electricity network privatisation transaction may take place — one of the key recommendations arising from the NSW Commission of Audit.

The ad blitz also comes as new polling reveals the Western Sydney community is overwhelmingly opposed to any plan to privatise the State’s electricity poles and wires, with strong concerns that a sale would lead to increased power prices.

The poll of 200 people across West and South West Sydney — commissioned by the Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union, Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia and the Public Service Association — found 87 per cent believe the electricity network is an essential service that should remain in government hands.

Just 17 per cent agreed that the poles and wires should be sold to fund other infrastructure projects, while 85 per cent said they believed a sale would lead to power prices going up and 91 per cent said a foreign company should not be allowed to buy the network.

“It is time for the O’Farrell Government to come clean with the people of NSW about their plans,” ETU assistant secretary Paul Sinclair said.

“Publicly they keep trying to deny that a sale is on, but at the same time they are currently producing a report on how the privatisation of the electricity poles and wires might work, following the recommendations of the NSW Commission of Audit.

“And they can’t even get their stories straight, with the NSW Treasurer saying the privatisation was being considered to plug a budget black hole earlier this year while the Premier said the exact opposite just a couple weeks later.

“Local Liberal MPs like Glenn Brookes, Melanie Gibbons, Bryan Doyle and Chris Patterson need to be up front with the local community and reveal, once and for all, whether they support the sale of this essential service, or whether they will fight against it in the party room.

“When asked, the Western Sydney community overwhelmingly opposed any proposed sale.

“Now it is time for our local MPs to publicly reject any plans to privatise the state’s electricity network to private interests and commit to keeping the poles and wires in public hands.”

United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said the community clearly recognised the negative consequences of privatisation in other states.

“The experiences of network privatisation in Victoria — where Black Saturday bushfire victims are currently suing the foreign multi-national whose faulty maintenance of the electricity network sparked several of the deadly blazes — seemed to weigh heavily on many of the people who were polled,” Mr Kelly said.

“A staggering 91 per cent said foreign companies should not be allowed to own important infrastructure such as our electricity network.

“Following the privatisation of the poles and wires in South Australia, that state now has the highest electricity prices in Australia.

“Here in NSW, the community gets the benefits of the dividends paid by these state-owned corporations, which deliver more than $2.5 billion every year to the state’s coffers to fund hospitals, schools and community services.

“The transmission network and the poles and wires running down every single street across NSW are a natural monopoly, there is no possibility of competition.

“A privatised electricity network makes it impossible for consumers get a good deal when it comes to price, maintenance and service delivery, as they have no other choice.”

Energy Minister needs to explain internal documents revealing 600 regional jobs could go

Paul Lister - Friday, April 19, 2013

Internal Essential Energy documents have confirmed that management at the government-owned energy company have been directed to encourage 600 staff to consider taking redundancies through a “mix and match” process, according to the Electrical Trades Union.

The process allows staff to voluntarily swap their current position for a redundancy.

Given Essential Energy’s service area covers more than 90 per cent of the state and the company employs more than 5000 people in regional areas the plan is likely to impact on countless local communities.

The ETU said that while NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher yesterday told Port Macquarie media that “nobody is losing their job” at Essential Energy, the documents tell another story.

“We have seen documentation briefing managers to ask their staff to mix and match,” ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said.

“It is our understanding that Essential Energy has written to 600 employees asking them if they are interested in taking up the mix and match proposal.

“This is part of a planned approach by Essential Energy to reduce staff numbers, starting with a freeze on recruitment, voluntary redundancies for management and redundancies for award workers.

“Our concern is that the final part of this will be to force people out if they can’t shed enough jobs voluntarily, which means the positions of all employees are potentially at risk.”

Essential Energy’s secretive job cuts are a far cry from Energy Minister Chris Hartcher’s statements yesterday that anybody who has left the company had “done so as a result of their own free choice”.

“The Energy Minister needs to make some urgent inquiries into these job cuts, because what he said yesterday does not line up with what staff at Essential are being told,” Mr Butler said.

“The O’Farrell Government made a commitment before the last election that there would be no jobs lost at Essential Energy’s office in Port Macquarie, and we hope Mr Hartcher will take the appropriate actions to keep that promise to the community.

“Just as importantly, the Minister and Essential Energy have an obligation to tell the community what impact on vital electricity services staffing reductions are likely to have elsewhere in their service area.

“Experience tells us that when you cut front line jobs, it’s the customers who always suffer.”

Launch of multi-million dollar campaign to keep NSW electricity network in public hands

Paul Lister - Thursday, March 28, 2013

Electricity unions will today launch a multi-million dollar community campaign against a proposal by the O’Farrell Government to sell the state’s electricity poles and wires monopoly to pay for unfunded election commitments.

A state-wide poll of 1801 people — commissioned by the campaign partners — has revealed the community is overwhelming opposed to the plan, with 80 per cent of people saying the electricity network should be owned by the public and operated to benefit the community, while 86 per cent said they believed power prices would rise if the poles and wires were privatised.

The campaign — spearheaded by the Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union, Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia and Public Service Association — includes an initial commitment of $1.5 million to fund advertising, community events and campaigning in key electorates.

“Our polling confirms that the people of NSW are overwhelmingly against this proposal — as revealed last month by Treasurer Mike Baird — because they believe it is bad economics, bad politics, and bad for their communities,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Of the almost two-thousand people polled, 87 per cent said the issue would have some impact on how they vote at the next election, 80 per cent said the electricity network should remain in public ownership and 71 per cent said they believed government does a better job of running the poles and wires than a private company would.

“These sentiments were even stronger in many regional areas, where the impact of potential service reductions or cost increases would be most acutely felt.

“The experiences of network privatisation in Victoria — where Black Saturday bushfire victims are currently suing the foreign multi-national whose faulty maintenance of the electricity network sparked several of the deadly blazes — also seemed to weigh heavily on many in the community. Ninety-two per cent of those polled said foreign companies should not be allowed to own important infrastructure such as our electricity network.

“If a bad government reduces services, the community can vote them out, but when large multinationals get their hands on essential services like the electricity network, the community has no recourse except expensive, time-consuming battles through the courts.”

United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said the campaign would seek to debunk the myth that privatisation would be good for consumers.

“South Australia has the highest electricity prices in Australia following the privatisation of their poles and wires, while power prices in NSW remain cheaper than Victoria where privatisation has been hailed a success,” Mr Kelly said.

“Here in NSW, the community also gets the benefits of the dividends paid by these state owned corporations, which deliver more than $2.5 billion every year to the state’s coffers to fund hospitals, schools and community services.

“Our polling shows that most people in NSW already understand this, with 86 per cent saying they believe electricity prices will go up if the government privatises our network.

“The transmission lines which bring power from the generators, down to the poles and wires running down your street, are a natural monopoly, where there is no possibility of competition. That makes it impossible for consumers get a good deal when it comes to price, maintenance and service delivery, as they have no other choice.

“This campaign is about bringing together working people and the broader community to demand the O’Farrell Government move away from this proposal to ensure essential services like electricity are kept in public hands.”

Launch of anti-privatisation campaign:
When: 11.30am, Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Where: Hospital Road, Sydney (Behind Parliament)

NSW power sell-off fails to learn from Black Saturday bushfire victims

Angela Lordan - Sunday, February 03, 2013

The plight of Black Saturday bushfire victims — who are this week being forced to relive the 2009 tragedy in court to ensure foreign owned power company SP AusNet pays compensation over fires allegedly caused by faulty wires — highlights the potential ramifications of the O’Farrell Government’s electricity privatisation push.

The Electrical Trades Union said that despite the Bushfire Royal Commission finding that several of the fires which killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes were caused through lack of maintenance on the Singapore-owned electricity network, victims were being forced to jump through legal hoops in order to get compensation.

“If the Victorian electricity network was still publicly owned, there is no question that victims would not have been forced to relive this tragedy yet again simply to get compensation,” ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said.

“That is especially true as the Royal Commission has already found several of these fires were caused by maintenance failings on the privately owned network.

“Unfortunately, the NSW Government seems to have learnt nothing from the experience of Black Saturday victims, who have had their tragic experience compounded by having to fight a multinational power company tooth and nail through the courts to be compensated for the horrific loss of lives, homes and livelihoods caused by these fires.

“Despite this, the O’Farrell Government are planning to do the same thing here in NSW and sell off the electricity network to the private sector who will cut back on maintenance, increase prices and slash services.

“Retaining this essential service in government ownership isn’t just about maintaining service standards, it is about ensuring it remains publicly accountable.

“Private companies, particularly those with foreign-ownership, have very little accountability to the community and will attempt to use every trick in the book to avoid paying compensation to victims of events like the Victorian Bushfires.

“If the Victorian Government still owned the electricity network it is highly unlikely that victims would now be reliving this nightmare through the courts, as the government would almost certainly have acted and compensated those affected.

“Electricity is not only an essential service required for everyday life, but it is also a highly dangerous commodity that can kill if the network is not maintained to the highest standard or network investment is cut.

“Experience shows us that this is exactly what private owners do in order to return maximum profits to shareholders.

“In Victoria we have clearly seen that under private ownership profits have come first and the public have come a distant second, which is now being played out in the courts.

“The O’Farrell Government needs to halt their own ideological privatisation push and guarantee that the people of NSW will never have to endure a similar experience.”


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