The United Services Union has expressed its unchanged opposition to the privatisation of NSW electricity network businesses following an unsolicited offer from an Australian consortium to buy Ausgrid, which provides electricity to consumers in Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Hunter Valley.
The union said the sale of a majority stake would be bad for workers and consumers — regardless of the nationality of the purchaser — inevitably leading to higher prices, cuts to services and job losses.
The USU is urging bidders AustralianSuper and IFM Investors to publicly commit to the retention of current jobs and service standards, including through legally-binding job protections for all existing employees.
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said the unsolicited offer came just a month after Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison blocked a similar sale of the company, citing national security concerns.
“Our position remains unchanged: handing over a monopoly asset that provides an essential service to the community to any private owner will result in higher prices for consumers and bad outcomes for workers,” Mr Kelly said.
“The Federal Government has been advised that it is not in Australia’s national interest for Ausgrid to be sold off to a private entity, and our view is it doesn’t matter whether that buyer is a Chinese company or an Australian super fund, the risks remain the same.
“The only way to guarantee that this company remains fully in Australian hands, and that these risks are appropriately managed, is to keep it in public ownership.”
Mr Kelly said unions would continue to demand legally binding protections to jobs and services.
“Our union will continue to work to ensure legislation enshrining five-year job protections for all NSW power workers are passed through the parliament,” he said.
“AustralianSuper and IFM Investors need to make a public commitment that iron-clad five-year job guarantees for all Ausgrid workers are part of their proposal.
“They also need to ensure that their model for making money out of this investment isn’t built on cutting maintenance or service standards for consumers.
“We will not back down from our commitment to protect the jobs of our members, or the services that Ausgrid provides to the people of NSW.”