Essential Energy offers ultimatum to "unfunded" job holders

FIVE Clarence Valley jobs are believed to be among those that Essential Energy has deemed to be "unfunded".   

According to a media release from the Electrical Trade Union and the United Services Union, the electricity network operator today informed 74 regional workers that they have two options, with one being to clear out their work space by close of business Friday.    

The jobs are among 262 from 32 regional locations that have been identified as "unfunded" and will be cut, including 84 from works depots, 63 from meter reading and vegetation management, and nine from management, corporate and support roles.

These job losses come in addition to 315 positions that have gone since June, and a further 123 workers who are currently going through the voluntary redundancy process.  

The two options provided to the Essential Energy workers are to either cease work as of Monday, October 19 or to attend an optional four work intensive career transition program.   

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, described today's announcement as "appalling".   

"Calling people into a meeting and telling them that they have just three days to clear out their belongings, that their workplace access will be disabled and that they are not required to attend work, is an appalling way to treat loyal workers," ETU secretary Steve Butler said.  

"Unions previously put a range of options to the company that would have saved many of these regional jobs, but all of these proposals have been either rejected by Essential Energy or ignored altogether.  

"Essential Energy management have also refused to re-enter the contestable works market, despite fellow NSW Government-owned network company TransGrid using that approach to prevent the need for any job cuts.  

"We believe that today's announcement by Essential Energy is not the end game." 

Essential Energy said tonight that after "a period of employee and union consultation", it had started implementing the first phase of its planned cuts to its workforce.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Gary Humphreys, said the Australian Energy Regulator's 30 per cent cut in operating expenditure had left Essential Energy without funding for an estimated 1,395 positions from 1 July 2015 - costing the business approximately $15 million per month.

The three NSW electricity network businesses - Essential Energy, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy - are currently appealing elements of the determinations in the Australian Competition Tribunal.

A two-phase workforce reduction is being implemented across the three businesses.

"In early September, Essential Energy provided details for consultation of the proposed first phase of job reductions (700 positions) and depot and office consolidations required to establish a long-term sustainable business operating model," Mr Humphreys said.

"Following a four-week consultation period with employees and unions and a comprehensive review of the feedback received, Essential Energy has today begun informing unions and employees of the positions that are no longer sustainable.

"While over 350 of the Phase 1 reductions have been achieved through voluntary redundancies, it is unavoidable that we now need to proceed with a process to identify additional redundant positions.

"We intend providing our re-deployees affected by this change necessary support to find a new career outside Essential Energy. They will be provided with training and given necessary time to pursue new career opportunities."

Essential Energy plans a second phase of workforce reductions once details of the legal appeals against elements of the AER's determinations are known. It said the result of the legal appeals would not affect the number of Phase 1 redundancies.

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