||Issue No. 128||15 March 2002|
Why I'm Marching
Interview: The Wedge Buster
History: Fighting for Peace
Unions: Rattling the Gates
International: Facing Retribution
Technology: How Korean Workers Used The Web
Industrial: Working Futures
Review: Rumble, Young Man, Rumble
Satire: GG Survival Doomed: Fox-Lew In Charge Of Rescue Bid
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Rattling the Gates
Traditional Labor Party supporters are heading for the doors as MPs cuddle up to "aspirationals".
"They can't even take Newcastle for granted," warns CFMEU Pacific Power International delegate, Richard Brownette, "the swing against them in the general election made that obvious. It's something they really have to sit up and have a good look at.
"People are sick to death of privatisation. De-regulation, in this country, isn't exactly a success story."
Brownette, a former party activist who left over the NSW Government's move to dis-aggregate power, doesn't take pleasure in being proved right in his assessment that the Carr Government was headed towards privatisation.
He sees the Carr-Egan plot to put his employer on the block as a threat to workmates and the whole NSW community.
PPI, based in Sydney and Newcastle, is the brains behind NSW power.
"When the big stuff falls over, generation or supply, they call us in," Brownette explains. "Last year the expertise of our people saved the state Government $68 million, according to their own figures."
The state-owned corporation employs the engineers, technicians, testers, environmental scientists and associated skills which make NSW generation an industry leader. Without them, critics say, power is inevitably headed towards private ownership.
PPI also contracts to outside suppliers, winning contracts in other states and as far away as Vietnam.
Workers are intensely proud of their achievements.
Doug Stevens, a Sydney-based engineering officer who has probably removed as much asbestos from Australian worksites as anyone, highlights the Eraring Power Station.
"Eraring is built to world's best standards. I don't know if it is still the case but, certainly six months ago, it was recognised as the most efficient generator in the world," Stevens says.
"NSW is going to derive benefits from Eraring for the next 40 years.
"Private utilities don't build to those standards because their first responsibility is to shareholders. Their efficiency is judged by the balance sheet at the next AGM. Big industries, like power, don't operate well under those conditions."
Brownette has a three-word prediction for NSW consumers if they don't stop Labor in its privatisation tracks - "Auckland and California" - and points to current problems in the Victorian industry.
"The power companies there have just gone to the Government asking for a 20 percent price increase. Guess who's going to pay?" he asks.
Brownette says workers have their own concerns over conditions, job security and super but insists these pale against the broader issues for taxpayers and consumers.
The Carr Government promises there will no compulsory redundancies when it flogs off PPI. Brownette, and 75 Newcastle workmates, have signed a pledge, on that basis, not to sell their skills to a private owner. If the business goes, they say, they will sit pat at their university base.
The oil lab chemist says he smells "a big rat" behind the sell-off push.
Not surprising, perhaps, when you consider Egan has already confirmed the need for two new stations to be on line by 2005. Given that construction would take 24-36 months the timing would be propitious for a Government prepared to, say, knock off PPI to a purchaser who might be interested in using the asset to build and run a couple of power stations.
Of course, Carr's Government would never do that, it would be against party policy!
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