Electrical Trades Union takes a stand against privatisation

Electricity prices have been a huge concern for Australians recently, with many states experiencing annual price hikes for a few consecutive years.

In light of such issues, there is currently a standoff between the Australian Workers Union and electrical union leaders happening Australia-wide.

It began when the Australian Workers Union called for unions to embrace asset sales of essential services, such as electricity networks.  Paul Howes, secretary of the Australian Workers Union, wrote on October 4 in an opinion piece that those opposed to the privatisation of assets were reactionary and ideological. 

Opponents to these asset sales say that past experiences prove they would be bad for consumers, workers and governments.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) commented that essential services are best owned by government and that this is the view of the majority of union members and the national community.

"Our union has a long, consistent, principled position against the privatisation of essential services, and it is a position that has been reaffirmed time and again by our members across Australia," said Allen Hicks, ETU national secretary.

"In our industry, we have experienced firsthand the impact of electricity network sales in Victoria and South Australia."

Mr Hicks stated that asset sales in the past have driven price increases and reductions in service. Not only that, but workers have lost jobs as part of business' cost-cutting endeavours. Mr Hicks claims that with asset sales, governments lose sustainable income streams that help fund services like hospitals and schools.

"South Australia now has the highest electricity prices in the country as a direct result of privatisation, while in Victoria 173 people lost their lives due to lack of maintenance on the privately owned electricity network causing the horrific Victorian bushfires," he said.

He also commented that it is troubling the community no longer has a say when essential services go private, as the owners only have to answer to shareholders.

Other branches of ETU in Queensland, Victoria and NSW have rejected the idea of asset sales, saying that governments should invest in income-generating assets in order to build national wealth, rather than sell them off.

How would you feel about essential services in your area being privatised? Recent examples of asset sales include the privatisation of Victoria's electricity networks.

Posted by Charlie Moore