ETU say Newman Government leases will hurt apprentices

SAVE OUR KIDS: ETU organiser Stuart Traill and state secretary Peter Simpson warn apprentices will suffer under the LNP’s leasing plans.
SAVE OUR KIDS: ETU organiser Stuart Traill and state secretary Peter Simpson warn apprentices will suffer under the LNP’s leasing plans. David Nielsen

IPSWICH apprentices will be the losers if the Newman Government gets its wish to lease its electricity transmission networks long term.

That is the warning from the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), which insists the government plan to offer 50 to 99-year leases of Energex, Ergon Energy and Powerlink is privatisation in all but name.

ETU supply industry organiser Stuart Traill said the planned cuts to apprenticeships announced by Energex yesterday were just the start, with Ipswich the big loser.

"Energex have today announced during EBA negotiations that they want to reduce apprentice numbers from 280 per year down to 96 per year," he said.

"Areas such as Ipswich have youth unemployment levels at over 20% and these high paid executives are closing job opportunities for our kids.

"We fought in 2005 to get minimum apprentice numbers into the agreement.

"Energex reduced their apprentice intake in January this year by 60 and promised us that here would be no further reductions. But they are still talking about reducing the number of apprentices.

"Go into the Raceview Energex depot and many of those young workers have come up through those apprenticeships.

"They are going to lose that chance of stepping up and becoming the tradesmen of the future, to replace the ageing workers that are starting to break down because of the manual nature of our industry."

The LNP's Ipswich West MP Sean Choat said the Energex stance was "short sighted".

"They are going to have to put up a good case for that, because I won't support it," he said.

"They should be investing in the training of younger people for the jobs that are going to be there for the future.

"As technology improves, they will need better qualified people. They are going to have to have a rethink."

Meanwhile Mr Traill said history taught a valuable lesson about the result of the interference of right wing governments in electricity assets.

"In Victoria the SECV (State Electricity Commission of Victoria) went from 12000 to 2500 employees after Jeff Kennett privatised them. It destroyed the La Trobe valley and towns and shops shut down.

"If the LNP get through their leasing and privatisation, based on what has happened in Victoria and South Australia, jobs will be cut."

There are upwards of 10 apprentices at the Energex depot in Raceview now.

However, ETU secretary Peter Simpson has warned the fate of apprentices there would go the same way as they have elsewhere under privatisation.

"After privatisation, they didn't train one apprentice in Victoria until 10 years later when the union finally convinced them to start training again," Mr Simpson said.

Mr Choat said any organisation that wanted to lease electricity assets "would have to have a requirement to invest in training".

Topics:  apprentices electrical trades union energex ergon energy powerlink privatisation sean choat

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