Wagga MP Daryl Maguire has defended the importance of cheap power in the face of trade unionists calling on the Coalition to walk back job cuts.
It comes after the Fair Work Commission this week granted the publicly-owned power company Essential Energy permission to axe 600 regional jobs across the state.
Wagga’s Essential Energy depot is tipped to axe 25 workers within weeks, but the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has aired grave concerns 60 jobs will eventually go.
The cuts were sparked by an Australian Energy Regulator forcing the company to slash household energy bills.
The cuts are expected to impact the whole region, with estimations 116 jobs in the Riverina will go within a fortnight.
ETU organiser Justin Page said Wagga residents could expect longer waits to reconnect downed powerlines.
“Essential Energy have happily admitted they'll make job cuts and outsource to contractors, which is all about driving down wages and conditions for employees,” Mr Page said.
“We understand budgets for maintenance have been cut, but there’s still avenues to keep workers, make money, and pay the government a dividend.
“Essential Energy is still 100 per cent government-owned, so the Nationals have the power to limit cuts.”
Local member Daryl Maguire said Wagga businesses and “mum and dad consumers” would have to pay more on their electricity bills to save the jobs.
“The independent arbiter determined Essential Energy’s overheads were far more expensive than other providers, putting consumers at a disadvantage,” Mr Maguire said.
“We sided with the unions originally, saying 600 job cuts was too harsh, but the union and Essential Energy couldn’t reach an agreement after 12 months.
“There will be some staff lost in Wagga, but they are highly skilled, well trained, and sought after in private industry.”