Privatisation fears as Ergon announces 500 jobs will go
UNION leaders in Gladstone are worried about the impact of planned job cuts at Ergon Energy.
Ergon, a government-owned corporation, announced 500 job cuts across Queensland yesterday.
Electrical Trade Union Central Queensland organiser Craig Giddins said the move could be the first step towards the privatisation of Ergon.
Mr Giddins, who is based in Gladstone, said it was unclear how the 500 job cuts would be spread around the regions.
With the storm season approaching, Mr Giddins said there was a risk Ergon would not have enough front-line electricians to perform important tasks after storm damage.
He expects most of Central Queensland's job cuts to be in Rockhampton, but that would still have a flow-on effect in Gladstone.
ETU State Secretary Peter Simpson said the cuts were part of the LNP Government's "slash and burn approach".
A Central Queensland Ergon Energy employee yesterday told The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin that control room workers were still "digesting" the news.
"We don't know who's going so everyone is worried," the employee said.
Mr Giddins said frontline workers, including linesmen, electricians and cable fitters, were likely to be affected first, given the Newman Government's record with axing public sector jobs.
"This is a kick in the guts for young families and people with medical conditions as they are the ones at risk here," he said.
"These frontline workers are the ones that travel more than two hours in stormy weather to fix a power pole, which feeds electricity to Ergon customers.
"These frontline workers put the power back on during the floods that hit the region last year."
The company, which employs close to 5000 workers across Queensland, intends to axe 143 jobs before Christmas.
Ergon employs about 1350 staff in the Central Region, which stretches from Proserpine to Miriam Vale and west to the border.
The Services Union secretary Kath Nelson said employees across the state in strategic services and finance, works enablement (middle management), operations and workshops were likely to be affected before Christmas.
Seventy labour hire contract employees, 43 finance and strategic service employees, two in works enablement (middle management), 97 in operations and 32 in Banyo and Virginia workshops were likely to be next in the firing line.
She said there wasn't a breakdown by region on the number of employees affected and it wasn't clear when this would be known.
Ergon Energy says it will continue to maintain frontline services to customers through the use of internal and external resources to manage costs and risk.
A company spokesman said the size of the workforce would depend on workload, not historical resourcing levels.
Ergon has confirmed 500 jobs will be cut by June 2013, including employees, labour hire and contractors.
It says it has reduced its capital and operational expenditure because electricity consumption and peak demand are well below levels forecast in their regulatory determination.
In a statement, acting corporate communications manager Mark Timmerman said the reduced forward works program meant the company would need fewer people to deliver and support it.
"We have to make some difficult decisions to ensure we are a prudent and efficient business that delivers affordable electricity to customers," the spokesman said.
Ergon's announcement comes after a previous one that said 52 meter reader jobs would be contracted out with those permanent employees to be made redundant.