A union representing Hydro Tasmania workers is concerned that a planned restructure of the business could be a means of bringing about privatisation by stealth.
Union representatives, including from the Australian Services Union, met with Hydro management yesterday to discuss the announcement earlier this week that about 5 per cent of the workforce, or approximately 50 full-time equivalent positions, were expected to be cut over 12 months, in what chief exeutive Evangelista Albertini has called a "redesign" of the business.
It's been said the changes will be necessary to allow Hydro to adapt to shifting market conditions and capitalise on its oppotunity to play a significant role in the transformation of Australia's energy sector.
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But ASU organiser Karen Tantari said she feared the move was the beginning of an effort to privatise the government business enterprise.
"The worrying part from the union's point of view is the talk of outsourcing some of those areas," she said. "Especially with the announcement that ... they're looking at selling Momentum off."
In a statement released on Thursday, Hydro confirmed it was considering selling power retailer Momentum Energy, saying any sale would be subject to the Tasmanian government's approval.
"I'm really concerned about privatisation," Ms Tantari said.
According to the union, Hydro indicated yesterday that jobs would be cut from its IT, people and culture, finance, assets and infrastructure departments.
Ms Tantari said management had agreed to push back by a week the deadline for consultation on the changes, which was originally going to be next Monday.
"Then they'll come back with their decision of how they want [the restructure] to look," she said.
"In writing, they'll provide what the new structure is [that's being] proposed - which roles will be impacted, which ones will be going, which departments will be then more overworked ... if they lose team members. And what new areas are going to be formed.
"It's going to take it into Easter, I'm assuming, for the final details."
The worrying part from the union's point of view is the talk of outsourcing some of those areas.- Karen Tantari, Australian Services Union organiser
A Hydro spokesperson described the meeting with unions as "productive".
"We understand that change is difficult, which is why we have been engaging with our people and unions over the last six months," the spokesperson said. "We're continuing to engage and listen, taking feedback on board. In consultation with our employees and unions we are extending our staff consultation period."
"Hydro Tasmania has met its consultation obligations throughout this process, consistent with the applicable awards, enterprise agreements and employment contracts. We remain committed to engaging with and supporting our people through this time of change."
Energy Minister Guy Barnett said he had sought a commitment from Hydro that any jobs created in Tasmania through government policy be spared and that positions based here be protected "wherever possible".
Greens energy spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said the state government was to blame for the restructure, saying a combination of imposing "excessive" annual dividends and "loss-making" contracts for wind farms and gas had left Hydro in a parlous state.
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