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Job loss fears are very real

Not good enough: Glenn Kingston, Jay and Bailey Moore and Tim Coombes say their livelihoods are threatened by plans to privatise the state’s electricity network. They are among many members of the industry’s family who have vowed to protest against Leslie Williams ahead of the election.THEY say theirs is not a campaign based on fear, but is all about protecting the jobs of the mums and dads and sisters and brothers of the Hastings.

Unions have argued against the privatisation of the electricity industry because of threats to jobs, including a freeze on apprentices.

Stop The Sell-Off’s Daniel Weizman said the apprentice intake has slowed significantly, in some places completely, since poles and wires were privatised in South Australia and Victoria.

“Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential Energy haven’t taken on any apprentices this year, and that’s the lifeblood of this industry,” he said on Friday.

Mr Weizman is in the area to support electricity workers as they campaign against Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams.

Members of the Electrical Trades Union and the United Services Union are easily spotted on some of the region’s busiest intersections wearing black and yellow.

The bumblebee army have “real concerns about their jobs”.

“Their fear right now is very real,” Mr Weizman said.

“They’re worried that if poles and wires go, the depots will be consolidated and overall numbers will fall.”

He pointed to the closures of control centres in Bathurst and Dubbo in recent years, “so the only ones left are here and in Queanbeyan”.

It was a misperception that selling or leasing the vital industry would reduce people’s power prices, he said.

Future prices will be determined by the Australia Energy Regulator, without the extra costs incurred from necessary system upgrades which have now been completed.

It’s also unlikely the benefits of the NSW government’s privatisation plan would be passed on to the Mid-North Coast.

“This community won’t see any of that money – most of what’s (made from privatisation) is targeted for projects in Sydney,” Mr Weizman said.

“This is a small community and once the lease goes through, that’ll be it.

“There’s no coming back.”

The unionist has extensive experience with privatisation through representing those employed by Harbour City Ferries, Sydney Water and the Roads and Maritime Services. He highlighted numerous safety issues with the latter, including insufficient staffing at critical times.

“This is about protection of workers now and in the future.

“It’s about protecting an asset that your dad, your grandfather helped pay for and now the government wants to sell it off.”

The campaigners have vowed to continue their high visibility presence through to the end of this month’s election.

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