Jobs at risk as Western Power prepares for privatisation

Thursday 25 Feb 2016

Unions representing thousands of workers in WA’s electricity system yesterday met with the Chief Executive Officer of Western Power to express concerns over job losses, following media reports that the publicly owned utility was planning to shed up to $400 million a year of spending, after a recent operational review.

Western Power CEO Paul Italiano, who paid private consultants more than $6 million of taxpayers money to conduct the review, said the cost cutting exercise was about getting the cost structures in place as the utility prepared to hand over its regulation from the Economic Regulation Authority to the Australian Energy Regulator in early 2017.

Mr Italiano, also refused to rule out job cuts, identifying labour costs as a key area to be targeted for cost savings.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) joined forces in 2014 to campaign against the privatisation of WA’s electricity network.   The two unions believe that privatisation will lead to higher prices, poorer quality services, increased bushfire risk and fewer jobs and apprenticeships.

ASU WA Branch Secretary Wayne Wood said that the proposed cuts to spending signaled that Western Power was starting preparations for its certain sale under a re-elected Barnett Government.

“These cost cutting measures are all about the Barnett Government getting the Western Power books in order before it puts it on the market for sale,” he said.

“We saw a similar process take place in the lead up to the privatisation of the electricity system in Victoria, and we also saw it in the lead up to the sale of the network in NSW.”

ETU WA Branch Secretary Les McLaughlan said the spending cuts at Western Power were clearly the utility taking another step towards privatisation.

“We have been saying for months that the State Government intended to privatise Western Australia’s electricity network in an effort to pay down the massive debt it has accrued since coming to office,” he said.

“Its now clear that the Barnett Government has commenced the privatisation process in earnest.

“Mr Italiano’s comments reported in the media, have also caused considerable anxiety among workers at Western Power, who are understandably worried about their jobs.

“Yesterday’s announcement by the CEO confirms that Western Power is now gearing itself up for private ownership should the Barnett Government be re-elected in 2017.”