Country Mayors demand accountability from Essential Energy CEO over proposed rural job cuts
At today’s NSW Country Mayors’ Association meeting in Sydney, Chair of the Association and Moree Plains Shire Council Mayor Katrina Humphries led discussions in relation to recent public statements made by Essential Energy CEO, John Cleland regarding proposed job cuts by the company in the bush.
"Like my fellow mayors, I was astounded to see that Mr Cleland has written to inform regional councils that Essential Energy would be cutting 182 jobs over the next 10 weeks. In the same letter we received this ‘advice’, Mr Cleland spoke of the ‘employee consultation’ conducted as part of the process. In these times, I frankly cannot believe that companies and their senior management can remain so out of touch,” said Mayor Humphries.
But the Mayor of Moree Plains Shire Council did have praise for her local State Member of Parliament.
“I was however encouraged to see the swift and direct reply from Minister Adam Marshall. I don’t think that it’s an accident that the Minster for Agriculture and Minister for Western New South Wales got it right. Let’s face it, we’re looking at two people; one who drives hundreds of kilometres per year, engaging with local communities, listening and understanding their needs, and the other seems to believe that taking 182 jobs from regional families is a sound strategy to ‘right size’ this state-owned corporation.
“Perhaps Mr Cleland might wish to ride along with Minister Marshall on a few trips. Some good clean country air, a series of discussions with the people and businesses that rely on a consistent level of service from Essential Energy, and a chance to say ‘thanks’ to those Essential Energy employees, may be a better use of his time.
“Since Mr Cleland’s announcement I’ve had scores of discussions and they always come back to the same three themes; people just can’t see the logic, they can’t understand how this fits with undertakings made by Premier Gladys Berejiklian relating to regional employment, and they always describe it as heartless in a time of drought.
While Mayor Humphries is aware of the demands of Mr Cleland’s role, she queried whether Essential Energy had undertaken adequate consultation to understand the broader implications of their approach.
“Putting people out of work when there is limited alternative local employment opportunities will kill the bush. It’s a well-qualified person leaving, taking their families and I can tell you, they don’t come back. We are all battling at the moment and if the local businesses in my town are trying their best to keep their staff on for when it rains (and it will!), I cannot for the life of me understand the sense of a big state-owned corporation not doing the same. And that’s not even having regard for the expected drop in service we can expect with such a reduction in workforce.
“If Mr Cleland isn’t willing to seriously consult the affected regional communities and understand that he is in business of providing a service to all of NSW, then the Country Mayors Association will be moving a motion to support Minister Marshall’s calling for Mr Cleland’s job.”