Essential Energy workers claim financial mismanagement over office upgrade as Leslie Williams MP calls for no job losses in Port Macquarie

Upgrade: Some staff have questioned the cost of the Essential Energy Buller Street office upgrade.
Upgrade: Some staff have questioned the cost of the Essential Energy Buller Street office upgrade.

THE news of regional job cuts, and questions over the financial responsibility around a multi-million dollar office upgrade, have angered Essential Energy employees in Port Macquarie who are now left uncertain about their future.

It has prompted a swift move by the state member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams, who has called for job losses at the organisation to be halted.

The job losses announcement was made public on July 3. Workers have been given until July 10 to respond before forced redundancies are implemented.

Since 2015, more than 2,000 jobs have been cut from Essential Energy, nearly halving the workforce.

I have spoken directly to the Deputy Premier's office and made it very clear that I will not stand by and see one Essential Energy employee forced out of a position in Port Macquarie.

Leslie Williams MP

A spokesperson for Essential Energy said "a number of field and non-field roles will be impacted" in Port Macquarie.

"The final number will be determined through the consultation process," the spokesperson said.

"Essential Energy is continuing discussions with impacted employees and relevant unions."

Mrs Williams said she has made it "crystal clear that she will not tolerate any forced job losses at Essential Energy in Port Macquarie".

"This morning (July 3) I have spoken directly to the Deputy Premier's office and made it very clear that I will not stand by and see one Essential Energy employee forced out of a position in Port Macquarie," Mrs Williams said.

"I have made it clear to the Deputy Premier's Office and I have asked them to put a halt on this process."

Mrs Williams would not be drawn in on whether she believed there was financial mismanagement at Essential Energy.

The NSW Labor Opposition has also called on Deputy Premier John Barilaro to intervene.

Deputy NSW Labor leader and Shadow Minister for Rural and Regional Jobs, Yasmin Catley, called on the Deputy Premier to intervene "if he is serious about standing up for the regions".

"It's disappointing seeing more jobs lost in the regions. We've seen more than 2000 jobs lost from Essential and this is another kick in the guts for regional workers," Ms Catley said.

"The Deputy Premier owes it to NSW to answer the latest round of job cuts."

The Buller Street office is on prime water view land. Would it not have been less ostentatious to have the offices where greater value for money could be achieved.

Essential Energy employee

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) says the company has blamed the Australian Energy Regulator for the cuts, saying the money spent on building, upgrading and replacing infrastructure will be cut by 11.5 per cent during the next five years, while general operating expenses need to be reduced by 3.9 per cent.

A current employee of Essential Energy in Port Macquarie who did not want to be named said staff were "terrified".

The employee questioned "how can they justify who they are getting rid of without a business strategy?".

They also pointed to "financial mismanagement" over a substantial upgrade of the Buller Street office in Port Macquarie.

The building is owned by Sentinel Property Group in Queensland.

"The Buller Street office is on prime water view land. Would it not have been less ostentatious to have the offices where greater value for money could be achieved," the employee asked.

Many employees have raised issues with senior management about the works being unnecessary and a waste of money.

Former Essential Energy employee

A spokesperson for Essential Energy said the Buller Street upgrade was being funded predominantly by Sentinel Property Group by way of a "lease incentive".

The infrastructure upgrade works, estimated to be $12 million, are expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Sentinel Property Group is funding $9.5 million of the works while Essential Energy is contributing the remainder of the costs, the spokesperson confirmed.

An ex-employee of Essential Energy described the Buller Street refurbishment as "unnecessary and insulting to those employees who are losing their jobs", and has questioned the breakdown of the project's costs.

"I worked at the Buller Street office for a significant period of time and it was a perfectly functionable office space," the ex-employee told the Port News.

"The office only houses about 300 employees (one tenth of the entire workforce) and many employees have raised issues with senior management about the works being unnecessary and a waste of money, particularly at a time of spiralling power bills."

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