Publicly-owned electricity distributor Essential Energy has this week commenced notifying employees that they will be forced to leave the company, just weeks before Christmas, with workers at 23 locations around the state so far told that they no longer have a job.

The United Services Union said it had confirmed the forced termination of 36 workers — the first of 600 the company plans to axe by 2018 — with those made redundant so far including electrical technicians, powerline workers, operations managers, senior customer service staff, meter readers, engineers, administration workers and specialist tradespeople.

The number of confirmed job cuts by regional depot are: Bathurst, 2; Bega, 1; Blayney, 1; Broken Hill, 8; Buronga, 2; Coffs Harbour, 1; Coonamble, 1; Dubbo, 2; Forbes, 1; Grafton, 1; Inverell 1; Mclean, 1; Murwillumbah, 1; Nambucca Heads, 1; Narrabri, 1; Orange, 1; Port Macquarie, 3; Queanbeyan, 1; Sydney, 1; Tamworth, 1; Taree, 2; Tweed Heads, 1; and Wellington, 1.

USU general secretary Graeme Kelly slammed the timing as heartless, accusing Essential Energy management of treating loyal workers with contempt.

“How incredibly insensitive and out of touch can management at Essential Energy be if they think that it is acceptable behaviour to ring workers just weeks before Christmas to tell them that — despite years of loyal service — they’ve no longer got a job,” Mr Kelly said.

“Workers at this publicly-owned company are still in shock that management was granted approval last month to axe 600 jobs by 2018, and up to 1,000 more in 2019, but that emotion is turning to anger as they see the heartless way colleagues are being treated when they are notified of their termination.

“The information pack that is sent to workers after they get the phone call helpfully suggests they call Lifeline, which appears to be an admission the company knows just how devastating this kind of news is, particularly to people living in regional areas with limited alternate employment.

“This is a company that is 100 per cent owned by the NSW Government, so it seems incomprehensible that this approach is occurring without the oversight and approval of the Liberal National Government.”

Mr Kelly called on regional MPs, particularly National Party MPs who are part of the Government, to demand an immediate halt to these forced redundancies until after the Christmas New Year period.

“It seems like common sense that a decent government and a decent employer would wait until after the holiday period to provide this news,” he said. “The NSW Government should also ensure there is a greater level of support put in place for workers who are seeing their lives turned upside down.

“This weekend, 400 Essential Energy workers and supporters marched through Dubbo to demand action to protect regional jobs, but so far all they have received from the National Party is silence.”

Further information: Tim Vollmer — 0404 273 313