MEDIA RELEASE: Friday 21 February, 2020

To prevent an employment ghetto in Australia’s changing energy sector, renewable jobs need similar pay, conditions and security to those found in coal- and gas-fired power, says the union representing Australia’s electrical workforce.

Electrical Trades Union National Secretary Allen Hicks welcomed Anthony Albanese’s zero emissions announcement today, but warned our political leaders must do more to regulate an emerging ‘wild west’ labour culture in alternative energy.

“We welcome Labor’s acknowledgement of the energy transition that’s already taking place,” said Mr Hicks. “Coal and energy workers have contributed enormously to Australian society over the years, and as we shift to renewables we must ensure these workers do not wear the cost of change.

“Committing to renewables is essential to mitigate the devastating consequences of climate change and to create new jobs and industries in Australia’s energy sector. But with no plan to make sure these are good jobs, with fair pay, stable contracts, and safe workplace conditions, the transition to renewables will leave Australian workers and communities behind.”

The ETU has exposed poor safety and labour standards rife within Australia’s burgeoning renewables sector, including widespread use of casual and temporary migrant labour, and the proliferation of untrained, unlicensed workers carrying out dangerous electrical work.

“Australia’s energy transition must not become a race to the bottom, where companies cut corners on materials and safety, slash wages, and depress conditions. We must also insure against the intolerable workplace safety hazards inherent to nuclear alternatives.

“A cornerstone of any emissions reduction plan needs to be regulatory and legislative frameworks to protect workplace standards in the clean tech industries that are Australia’s future.

“Our energy transition won’t be just unless the interests of workers and their communities are represented. There is a large, active role for government in planning and coordinating this transition. Thousands of good jobs in the renewable sector can and should be created, especially in regions currently reliant on carbon-intensive, trade-exposed industries. There should be direct government investment and ownership to prioritise these projects and ensure they are built to the highest standards.”

Mr Hicks emphasised that planning for net zero emissions cannot stop at regulating energy markets and infrastructure.

“Transition planning must include a bridge for workers to exit coal and gas and enter the renewable sector. There must be jobs in new industries which offer equivalent security and remuneration. This requires job guarantees, income bridging, proactive labour market assessments, post trade training and robust funding for TAFEs and apprenticeships nationwide.”

Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Zoe Power

0419 499 886, zoep@etuaustralia.org.au