Unions unite to fight electricity privatisation

Monday 13 Oct 2014

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Services Union (ASU) will join forces in a major public campaign to fight the planned privatisation of Western Australia’s electricity system.

The two unions represent thousands of workers in Synergy, Western Power and Horizon.

Treasurer Mike Nahan has indicated that the State Government will look to sell electricity assets to reduce State debt, and has been backed by Synergy in its submission to the State Government’s Electricity Market Review.

ETU WA Branch Secretary Les McLaughlan said that privatisation would result in electricity price increases of up to 50 per cent.

“The only way that Western Australia’s electricity assets will be attractive to private sector investors is if they can make a profit on their investment, Mr McLaughlan said.

“Given the State Government currently subsidises electricity prices by about 30 per cent, once you introduce a profit margin, it is likely that electricity prices could go up by 50 per cent in a privatised model.

“This would be a disaster for low income Western Australians and small businesses, particularly those in regional areas, where the cost of producing and delivering electricity is highest.”

ASU WA Branch Secretary Wayne Wood said privatisation would also see the quality of service suffer.

“Privatisation would likely see every job that didn’t physically have to be performed in Western Australia head offshore,” said Mr Wood.

“We would see call center, administration, systems work and accounting services undertaken in low costs centres like India, and thousands of jobs would likely be lost to Western Australia.

“This would be a tragedy for the existing workforce, and would lead to an increasingly frustrating experience for consumers.

“Plus, we would have real concerns for maintenance standards in areas like the Perth hills and the South West, which have high bushfire dangers.”

Mr McLaughlan said the unions would campaign for as long as required to see off the privatisation threat.

“Both unions will commit the resources required to stop the disastrous effects of privatisation on the Western Australian community,” he said.

“We understand the Barnett Government has created a debt problem for itself, but selling off essential services like electricity is not the solution. This is particularly the case, given Mr Barnett promised he would not privatise electricity assets during the last state election campaign.”

Mr Wood called on all Western Australians to unite to stop privatisation.

“In the weeks ahead, we will launch a campaign website and advertising to inform the WA community about the electricity price increases and service quality problems that will be an inevitable consequence of privatisation in electricity,” he said.

“We will encourage the WA community to use the power they possess at the ballot box to stop the Barnett Government’s privatisation plans.”