Unions vow massive campaign against Western Power fire sale

Friday 19 Feb 2016

Unions representing thousands of workers in WA’s electricity system have promised Colin Barnett the “fight of his life”, if he tries to privatise Western Power.

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. 

ETU WA Branch Secretary Les McLaughlan said that selling valuable publicly owned assets like Western Power was not the solution to address the Barnett Government’s fiscal failures, and that privatisation would seriously compromise the utility’s quality of service.

“Selling Western Power is not the solution for the government’s debt problems. Privatisation will result in an increase in the price of electricity for households, and see the quality of services suffer, as private owners try to squeeze every last dollar of profit for their shareholders,” he said.

“If our publicly owned poles and wires are sold to the private sector, they will only invest in the network when it is profitable for them to do so. 

“This could result in many parts of the network being left to decay, with disastrous consequences during bushfire season.”

Mr McLaughlan said the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, which left 150 people dead, found that faulty privatised power lines were responsible for causing five of the most devastating blazes. 

“This tragic case study highlights the very real dangers of electricity privatisation to the community,” he said.

“With the growing threat of bushfire in WA, we can’t afford to take risks with the maintenance of our electricity network.”

ASU WA Branch Secretary Wayne Wood said the Barnett Government had been softening up the Western Australian public for the last twelve months, and the Premier now appeared determined to proceed.

“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,” Mr Wood said.

“Mr Barnett will try to sell this as an economic reform, but everyone knows that this is all about cleaning up the massive mess he created of the state budget, as he tries to get himself another term in office.”