ETU Media Releases

The NSW Government has handed down an unsustainable Budget reliant on volatile income streams that will undermine the State’s economic position in the medium to long-term, the Electrical Trades Union has warned.

NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian has relied on one-off cash injections from electricity network privatisation and a stream of volatile stamp duty income from an unprecedented housing bubble to deliver a modest budget surplus, rather than secure sustainable long term income sources.

The union said that without the sale of electricity transmission company TransGrid, the Budget would have been in deficit to the tune of $7 billion, while Treasury will miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars in future tax and dividends the company previously generated.

“Prior to the 2015 election, our union warned people about the negative fiscal impact caused by privatising income generating assets,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“It was a concern that was shared by many others in the community, including merchant bank UBS that issued a warning that privatising the state’s electricity networks would be bad for the state budget in the medium to long term.

“Today’s budget confirms these fears, with the one off cash injection from the sale of TransGrid propping up otherwise ailing state finances.

“If you remove the one-off sugar hit from the privatisation of the electricity transmission network, todays budget tells a very different story: one of revenue short-falls, deficit and poor economic management.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals are relying on voodoo economics to hide their ongoing failure to act on creating sustainable long term revenue streams to fund our state’s future needs.”

The ETU challenged both the NSW Government and Opposition to rule out further privatisation of the remaining publicly owned electricity assets.

“The government and opposition cannot rely on unsustainable one off cash grabs in the future delivered through the privatisation of essential services.”

“Today’s budget is a clear example that privatising income generating assets for a one-off cash injection is not the silver bullet to solving the state's long term infrastructure and financial challenges,” Mr Butler said.

“We are demanding the Premier and NSW Opposition Leader rule out further privatisation of the remaining publicly owned electricity networks, including regional electricity provider Essential Energy and the remaining 50 per cent of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.

“It is disappointing to see that we were right when we said privatisation was bad economic policy, and it is now up to the NSW Government to correct its mistake by halting the sale of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy and ruling out any further privatisation of the remaining publicly owned electricity assets.”

As NSW gears up for a period of hot weather the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has raised concerns over the NSW Electricity Network’s ability to cope in what will be forty degree days as we approach the middle of summer.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler said that cuts to staffing levels and a reduction in network investment by the NSW Government have left the network vulnerable to periods of high demand like those presented this week with extremely hot weather forecast.

“What we have brewing is the perfect storm where the Baird Government has drastically cut investment in the NSW electricity network over the past 18 months while at the same time they have sacked more than one thousand frontline electricity workers across the state.” said Steve Butler.

“When the mercury rises to levels around forty degrees and above what we see is thousands of businesses and households crank up their air conditioner which puts and enormous amount of pressure of the electricity network as the demand for power peaks.”

“In the past the electricity network has coped well during these extreme weather periods but we now hold serious concerns about the Network’s ability to cope due to cuts to investment and massive staff reductions.” said Mr Butler.

“In the past year alone Ausgrid have slashed 879 electricity workers while Endeavour Energy has cut 155 staff and regional network operator Essential Energy has axed more than 350 regional jobs”

“Coupled with frontline staff cuts is a reduction of almost $500 million in network investment in the past year meaning the network we had twelve months ago is expected to cope with the demands of today.”

“The feedback from electricity workers is that the network is not in good shape and recent cuts to staff numbers and investment is having a material effect.” Mr Butler said.

“So today we are simply warning members of the public not to be surprised if the air conditioner stops working or your refrigerator is blacked out because we believe the decision of the Baird Government to cut staff numbers and slash network investment will come home to bite the general public at some time.”

“On top of these cuts, last year the NSW Government quietly reduced the amount of compensation customers can claim in the event of prolonged blackouts to a measly $80 per year but only when certain circumstances are met.”

“When your air conditioner, refrigerator and lights go out this summer remember to thank Mike Baird and his government for the deep cuts they have made to the NSW electricity sector but don’t bother emailing because your computer and internet connection will probably not be working.” Mr Butler finished.

The NSW Government has been accused of selling out the interests of electricity consumers and taxpayers following the announcement that electricity transmission company TransGrid has been sold to an 80 per cent foreign-owned consortium.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent workers at TransGrid, have raised serious concerns about the impact on consumers, the loss of long-term tax and dividends, and the corporate history of some of the companies in the winning consortium.

Among the purchasers is Spark Infrastructure, which already owns vast parts of the Victorian and South Australian power networks, where it has been responsible for rising prices, cuts to maintenance, and aggressive tax avoidance.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said research by the Tax Justice Network revealed that Spark had not paid a cent in company tax during the past decade, despite owning highly profitable monopoly assets.

“We don’t need to speculate about what the TransGrid privatisation will mean for tax revenues, because we’ve already seen what Spark have done in Victoria,” Mr Butler said.

“Prices have steadily risen for consumers, investment in infrastructure has crumbled, regional jobs have been slashed, and revenues that previously came to governments have completely dried up as the profits are aggressively shifted offshore.

“This consortium, which is made up of big banks, foreign governments and well-known tax avoiders, have just been handed the keys to the monopoly electricity transmission network that supplies power to the people of NSW.”

Mr Butler said the sale would have a negative impact on the NSW budget over the medium to long term.

“Since 2005, TransGrid have paid $2.4 billion to the NSW Government, money which has been used to fund infrastructure and essential services such as hospitals and schools,” he said.

“This sale puts an end to that sustainable, ongoing revenue stream, for a one off payment that is a fraction of the $10.26 billion price tag the Premier and Treasurer are crowing about today.”

Mr Butler went on to say the net proceeds of the sale would be around $7.3 billion after liabilities and sale costs were taken out leaving a measley net benefit of $1 billion for the people of NSW.

“In their most recent annual report, TransGrid’s regulated asset base alone was valued at $6.19 billion, meaning the state will be a measly $1 billion better off due to this privatisation — or the equivalent of four years of dividend payments,” he said.

“Given TransGrid paid $306.5 million in dividends and tax equivalency payments to the people of NSW last financial year alone, this is an incredibly poor outcome that future generations will pay for in the decades to come.”

Disclosures by NSW Government-owned electricity network companies have revealed almost five million dollars was spent in just four years to hire external law firms and private investigators to attack their workforces over disciplinary and industrial matters.

Documents released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act revealed Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid spent $4,604,703 on external legal services between 2010 and 2014.

An additional $223,832 was spent on private investigators in 2014, with Essential Energy revealing that more than 90 per cent of their spending on these services involved workers being investigated for “alleged non-compliances” with the company’s code of conduct.

The GIPA documents showed Ausgrid had spent $1,276,013 on industrial matters, $181,673 on disciplinary matters, and $40,569.20 on private investigators. Essential Energy paid $1,457,824 for industrial matters, $21,398 for disciplinary, and $67,847 for private investigators. And Endeavour Energy reported $1,420,000 for industrial matters, $150,000 for disciplinary matters, and $48,149 for private investigators.

Representative from the Electrical Trades Union and the United Services Union said it was outrageous that millions of dollars in public money, that came directly from consumers, had been spent by the management teams at the four public companies to attack their own workforces.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler also highlighted the vast difference between the amount spent by the four companies, with those under the control of Networks NSW chief executive Vince Graham spending on average nine times as much to attack workers and unions.

“Networks NSW have been crying poor in recent months, announcing that 2,800 jobs at Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy need to be slashed,” Mr Butler said.

“What they haven’t revealed is that they were able to find more than a million dollars a year to spend on external law firms and private investigators solely to attack the hard working men and women who maintain our electricity network and respond during natural disasters.

“Transgrid, who announced no job losses following the determination of the Australian Energy Regulator, has also been shown to have far more modest spending habits compared to the remaining three electricity network companies who are currently slashing jobs.”

United Services Union energy manager Scott McNamara said it was particularly concerning to discover that in addition to the large amounts spent attacking workers and their conditions, private investigators had been recruited to spy on employees without any disclosure.

“Last year alone, nearly a quarter of a million dollars in public money was handed over to private investigators so they would spy on the hard-working employees of these four companies,” Mr McNamara said.

“The fact that such large sums were involved, and the spending was spread across all four companies, shows this approach has become common practice among management teams at war with their own staff.

“The NSW Government tries to blame workers for electricity prices, but what they don’t tell consumers is that millions of dollars from their power bills have been poured into the pockets of large law firms and private investigators.

“This kind of behaviour may be commonplace in communist North Korea, but it is not acceptable in NSW, where committed workers dedicate their working lives to serving the public by ensuring they have a safe, reliable and affordable electricity supply.”

Publicly-owned electricity network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and Essential Energy, have revealed plans to slash 2749 jobs from September this year, offering staff just one week to consult on the proposal.

Regional electricity provider Essential Energy will be hardest hit, with a proposed reduction of 1395 staff accounting for more than half the total job losses, leading to the decimation of services across the state and a massive economic blow for rural communities.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity network workers, slammed the draft redundancy policies released by the three companies, which not only implement the use of forced redundancies, but vastly reduce the severance payments made to employees who “involuntarily” leave.

The unions said long-serving staff who wish to continue working, but are forced out against their will, will be left tens of thousands of dollars worse off under the plan.

The companies have revealed that the intended job cuts will occur in two phases, with the first positions going in September, and the remainder expected to take place from October.

Essential Energy wants to make 1395 staff redundant, with 700 going in the first phase, Ausgrid intends to cut 1100 jobs, with 600 in the first phase, while Endeavour Energy will reduce its staff by 254, with 120 made redundant during the first phase.

TransGrid, which operates the high-voltage transmission lines across NSW, has said it will not be cutting any jobs, instead expanding its presence in contestable work markets to make up for the loss of regulated revenue following the Australian Energy Regulator’s decision.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the draft policies revealed that the three companies already had a “hit list” of staff whose jobs they intended to cut, while all other employees would in effect be required to reapply for their existing jobs.

“These companies have said that the first staff to go will be those who have previously been redeployed, along with those whose job is being discontinued at a particular location,” Mr Butler said.

“They have also revealed is that they already know who these employees are — so there’s a hit list of staff who are to loose their jobs, yet employees have no idea if they are on it.

“For the remaining job cuts, the companies have said a ‘merit based selection’ will be used, essentially requiring all employees to reapply for their existing jobs, with management cherry-picking who can stay and who will go.

“Premier Mike Baird needs to come clean on whether he has signed off on this plan, because on his watch nearly 2,800 NSW families — more than half of which are in rural or regional areas — will lose their primary income.

“When challenged by the union at a meeting earlier this month, the Premier said the government would not expand the work carried out by the electricity businesses in order to keep NSW workers employed.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara criticised the rushed nature of the proposal, which gave employees and their unions just one week to consult on the draft plans, as well as the attempt to blame the proposed jobs cuts on the AER.

“This policy highlights the sham nature of consultation under the Baird Government, with employees given just one week to consult on how almost three thousand people may lose their jobs,” Mr McNamara said.

“Worse still, they are continuing to try to blame the energy regulator for these proposed job cuts, which is extremely deceptive and has already been shown to be untrue.

“While Essential Energy wants to shed almost 1,400 jobs, TransGrid has given an undertaking to expand the current business into contestable works markets, in order to keep all current staff employed.

“This decision to slash jobs is a choice of management — and appears to have been influenced by the NSW Government — but it is a choice they don’t have to make.

“At the Parliamentary enquiry into power privatisation earlier this year, AER chief executive officer Michelle Groves specifically told MPs: ‘we have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses’.”

The unions said the proposed redundancy policies particularly disadvantaged loyal, long-serving staff who wished to continue in their employment.

 For example, a 44-year-old linesperson with Ausgrid who started as an apprentice and has remained with the company for 25 years, would be entitled to a voluntary redundancy package worth 87 weeks pay. But if that same employee wants to keep working for the company, but is then made to take a forced redundancy, that payment would be slashed to 16 weeks.

“This policy of not only imposing forced redundancies, but paying much lower severance packages for them, is particularly nasty,” Mr Butler said.

“It means long serving staff who want to remain in their jobs risk loosing tens of thousands of dollars, essentially forcing people to ‘volunteer’ for redundancy — whether or not they want to leave — or risk being jobless and thousands of dollars out of pocket.

“This is an incredibly nasty way for the Baird Government to treat people who have spent their working lives serving the people of NSW.”

You can read letters sent to the union by the electricity companies outlining how they intend to make staff redundant.

Power industry unions are today considering their legal and industrial options following the Baird Government’s failure to consult with the workforces of Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid ahead of their privatisation.

The moves follow a refusal by Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian to negotiate with unions over an employment protections package for workers at the companies, despite pre-election commitments to do so.

Unions sought urgent meetings following the tabling of legislation allowing the sale of majority stakes in Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, and the full sale of statewide transmission business TransGrid.

The NSW Government told unions a pre-existing 30 minute meeting with the Premier next Monday, which was to discuss the impact of the Australian Energy Regulator’s recent determinations and was sought by unions more than two weeks ago, will now be the only consultation over what protections would be put in place for workers and apprentices ahead of the sale.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity network workers, have warned that without proper employment protections in place, private owners will slash jobs, apprentice numbers, close depots and offices, and contract out other services.

“Before the election, Mike Baird told the people of NSW that he would put protections in place to ensure a new owner didn’t slash local jobs, as occurred in Victoria when that state privatised electricity assets,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Last week, Gladys Berejiklian repeated those promises, telling the parliamentary inquiry that the government would consult with all stakeholders.

“Power industry unions have made themselves available for urgent negotiations, including after hours or over the weekend, but neither the Premier nor Treasurer is willing to meet.

“The Baird Government must honour the promises made to workers and the community ahead of the election, including their pledge to consult with workers to ensure appropriate employment protections were put in place prior to legislation passing through the parliament.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara accused Liberal and National Party MPs of going to ground on job protections following the election, with not one standing up publicly to advocate an agreement that would protect jobs, skills and training opportunities.

“Before the election, Coalition MPs and candidates across the state claimed that fears of job losses or service cuts were being exaggerated, and that protections would be put in place as part of the privatisation process,” Mr McNamara said.

“Since being elected, they’ve all lost their voices, refusing to advocate for the local men and women whose jobs are now at risk.

“We are also calling on Fred Nile — who indicated that strong employment protections would be required for him to support this sale — to make clear to the Baird Government that it must consult in good faith with the workforce of these three public companies.”

Mr Butler said workers were simply asking for protections similar to those provided to workers at electricity generation businesses when they were sold by the O’Farrell Government.

“Before the election Mike Baird said that he would protect electricity jobs threatened by his privatisation plan, but now after the election he is refusing to consult on this very issue,” Mr Butler said.

“Previous NSW privatisations, whether done under Labor or the Liberals, have seen appropriate employment protections put in place prior to legislation passing the parliament.

“That process is essential to provide certainty for workers, continuity for apprentice and training programs, and to maintain service standards.

“It is extremely concerning that the NSW Government has decided to jump the gun, tabling legislation ahead of the parliamentary inquiry even handing down its findings or consultation occurring with workers and their unions.

“Beyond any political promises made before the election, the NSW Government has a moral obligation to consult with the workforce of these publicly-owned businesses ahead of their partial or majority sale to a private owner.

“Mike Baird says that NSW has waited twenty years for this privatisation. I’m sure the state can wait another month to ensure it’s done right.”

Power industry unions yesterday wrote to NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian seeking an urgent meeting regarding employment protections for workers at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid

The unions threatened to lodge a dispute in the Fair Work Commission, arguing that the NSW Government has breached existing workplace agreements by failing to consult with workers.

The moves follow the introduction of legislation for the privatisation of the three publicly-owned network businesses by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent workers at the  electricity network companies, fear that without proper employment protections in place, private owners will slash jobs, apprentice numbers, close down depots and offices and contract out other services.

Unions are seeking the urgent meeting with the Treasurer in addition to a meeting already scheduled between the ETU and the Premier next Monday to discuss the impact of the recent Australian Energy Regulator determination.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the Baird Government needed to honour pre-election promises to consult with workers and ensure appropriate employment protections were put in place prior to any legislation passing through the parliament.

“Before the election, Mike Baird told the people of NSW that he would put protections in place to ensure a new owner didn’t slash local jobs, as occurred in Victoria when that state privatised electricity assets,” Mr Butler said.

“Previous NSW privatisations, whether done under Labor or the Liberals, have seen appropriate employment protections put in place prior to legislation passing the parliament to provide certainty for workers, continuity of apprentice and training programs, and to maintain service standards.

“It is extremely concerning that the NSW Government have decided to jump the gun, tabling legislation ahead of The Hon. Fred Nile’s parliamentary inquiry handing down its findings or any consultation occurring with workers and their unions.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said there was an urgent need for the NSW Government to provide details of the jobs package that would be put in place.

“Beyond any political promises made before the election, the NSW Government has a legal obligation to consult with the workforce of these publicly-owned businesses ahead of their partial or majority sale to a private owner,” Mr McNamara said.

“Workers are justifiably concerned that a potential owner, whether based interstate or overseas, would seek to slash local jobs and cut back conditions.

“The Premier must ensure that as he presses ahead with his privatisation plan he honours the promises that he made to the public and industry workers ahead of the election.”

Unions have warned that electricity consumers have been condemned to poorer services, reduced maintenance, and slower emergency response times following the decision of the Australian Energy Regulator.

The AER decision, which takes effect from July 1, sets the revenues that publicly-owned network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, TransGrid and Essential Energy can charge private electricity retailers.

The final determination imposes cuts to revenues of 33 per cent for Ausgrid, 31 per cent for regional provider Essential Energy, 28 per cent for Endeavour Energy, 25 per cent for TransGrid, and 32 per cent for the ACT’s electricity network operator ActewAGL.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent workers at the  electricity network companies, said the savage cuts would lead to substantial reductions to service delivery, maintenance, and emergency response times.

They also highlighted that neither the AER, nor the NSW Government, had any legal power to force private energy retailers to pass price reductions on to consumers after retail electricity pricing was deregulated by the Baird Government in July 2014.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said there was no doubt that the response to last weeks major storm event, which cut power to a quarter of a million homes, would have been substantially slower if these cuts had already been in place.

“The Federal Government’s energy regulator has condemned the people of NSW to more blackouts, slower reconnection times, reduced maintenance, and a loss of specialist skills, all without guaranteeing consumers will see one cent of savings on their bills,” Mr Butler said.

“We saw last week why having adequate numbers of highly skilled professionals working on the electricity network is essential.

“Had these cuts already been in place there is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of consumers would have endured significantly longer delays in having electricity services restored to their homes.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said that while the cuts could result in up to 4,000 job cuts across NSW, unions were working with the NSW Government to find alternatives.

“The AER determination is about the revenue network companies can recover from their ‘regulated asset base' and is not connected to employee numbers,” Mr McNamara said.

“The AER determination does not limit the amount of income these businesses can generate from other sources, including in area’s such as contestable work.

“There are many alternatives to mass sackings, and we will not allow management to use the AER determination as an excuse to get rid of thousands of workers ahead of the NSW Government’s planned privatisation.”

Both unions highlighted their commitment to work with the network companies, Networks NSW, and the Baird Government, to identify alternatives to job and service cuts.

“There are a range of alternatives to job cuts that we have already identified,” Mr Butler said.

“There include re-entering the market for contestable work, eliminating the executive bonus scheme, looking for opportunities around the National Broadband Network rollout, retraining and redeploying displaced workers, and using early retirement schemes.

“We are also deeply concerned for current and future apprentices and their ability to secure full time ongoing employment.

“Cuts of this scale risk losing a whole generation of workers — and the specialist skills they possess — leading to inevitable skills shortages in the future.

“One thing that can be guaranteed is that no region of NSW will be spared if massive job cuts are implemented.”

Mr McNamara said the AER had to be honest with consumers, and admit they were powerless to ensure any cuts flowed through to power bills.

“The AER is powerless to force electricity retailers to pass on these reductions, and the experience of Victoria has been that similar reductions simply resulted in retailers taking the additional money as profit,” he said.

“So consumers will receive poorer services, but may not see any financial benefit.

“The AER seems to be relying on the goodwill of private retailers to pass on possible saving.”

The unions also highlighted that the AER was bound by a set of rules when making determinations, and they these had been set out by energy minsters from each state and territory.

They were last agreed to in 2012, when Chris Hartcher was Energy Minister in the O’Farrell Government.

Power industry unions are warning NSW consumers to expect increased blackouts, reduced safety, and massive cuts to jobs and training following the federal energy regulator’s proposal to slash electricity network spending by up to 60 per cent.

The Electrical Trades Union and United Services Union, which represent the majority of the 12,000 Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential employees across NSW, said the Australian Energy Regulator’s draft determination would impose drastic cuts to the money available to run, maintain and upgrade electricity infrastructure during the next five years.

Off the back of major infrastructure upgrades during the past five years, which have increased reliability and capacity in times of peak demand, the network businesses had sought to reduce expenditure by 40 per cent.

The AER rejected that proposal, instead delivering cuts of up to 60 per cent, which if implemented will result in more than 4,600 job losses across the state.

The unions said these cuts would come on top of 2,300 jobs already lost at Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential since July 2012, almost halving the size of the workforce in just a few years.

“Massive expenditure cuts of this scale, introduced overnight, will have a massive impact on the reliability of electricity services and the safety of workers and members of the public,” ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said.

“Blackouts will be more likely on the hottest and coldest days, as power demand surges, reconnections will be slower following natural disasters, bushfire risks are likely to increase, and the safety of workers and the public will be put at risk.

“It will also see thousands of jobs cut, many in rural and regional NSW, as well as all but eliminate any intake of apprentices across the sector over the next five years.

“For the federal regulator to impose cuts so far in excess of what the electricity network businesses themselves recommended — without any risk assessment on the impact to safety and reliability — reveals a complete failure to consider the public interest.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said the AER report had made no provision for redundancies, requiring job reductions that were unsafe and illegal under current enterprise agreements.

“The energy regulator has completely failed to examine how cuts of this magnitude would take place, with no provision for the redundancy payments that would be needed for thousands of workers, and no examination of how it will impact safety,” he said.

“These job cuts are not only illegal under the current enterprise agreements, but they would breach the Federal Government’s own Fair Work Act.

“These cuts claim to be modelled on practices in Victoria and South Australia, but the AER fails to acknowledge the fact that both these states suffer from load shedding — where power has to be cut to consumers because the network can’t meet demand.

“In Victoria, more than 100 lives were lost on Black Saturday in bushfires a royal commission found were sparked by poor maintenance on the electricity network.

“The AER would see a reduction of $460 million in the next four years in the money spent on managing vegetation around power lines to reduce bushfire risk.

“The last thing we want is for the people of NSW to end up with poorer services and reduced safety because the Federal Government’s energy regulator imposes unsustainable cuts to our electricity network.”

The unions said that, like the network businesses, they would be making submission to the draft determination opposing the scale of the cuts.

“The AER have got it wrong by not taking into consideration legal obligations and true operational requirements of the network businesses,” Mr Butler said.

“We believe in a publicly owned electricity network that is efficient, safe and affordable.

“A slash and burn approach to spending will deliver the opposite outcome, which would be bad for consumers throughout the state.”

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance has today demonstrated complete hypocrisy, attacking employment conditions received by electricity workers during emergency incidents while accepting a myriad of taxpayer funded entitlements, including generous travel expenses and a chauffeur driven car.

Mr Constance today described a clause that allows Endeavour Energy employees to be paid for travel time when called to respond to emergency incidents outside of their normal work hours as an “outrageous” perk.

The Electrical Trades Union said the provision only applied to times where motor vehicle accidents, storms, blackouts or major faults cut power services and specialist workers were called in to immediately restore the electricity.

ETU secretary Steve Butler described the comments as a shameful, politically motivated attack aimed at turning the public against electricity workers in retaliation for their campaign against the Baird Government’s plans to privatise the publicly owned poles and wires.

“The Treasurer has not only shown complete contempt for the thousands of electricity workers who are called in following fires, floods and other natural disasters, but he seems completely oblivious to his complete hypocrisy,” Mr Butler said.

“The conditions of employment that the Treasurer has claimed are ‘outrageous’ are not everyday conditions, but only apply when specialist workers are called in after hours to restore power during emergency situations and blackouts.

“While the alleged perk cost taxpayers $1.8 million, Andrew Constance single handedly receives more than $400,000 from taxpayers each and every year.

“In addition to his $249,733 salary, $38,881 for additional expenses, electoral allowance of $92,785, ‘Sydney Allowance’ of $278 a day plus $99.95 per day for meals, the Treasurer also enjoys the luxury of a chauffeur driven car.

“It shows complete contempt for the frontline workers who regularly risk their lives in order to serve the public when they are attacked by a government minister for receiving entitlements that are modest at best and have little to no impact on overall power prices.

“This shameful attack was politically motivated and is simply an attempt to turn the community against hard working electricity workers as payback for their opposition to privatisation.

“Mr Constance owes an apology to the thousands of electricity workers across NSW.”