Up to 40 Orange power workers risk losing their jobs after Essential Energy was given approval to cut 600 jobs across NSW.
On Wednesday the full bench of the Fair Work Commission granted the power company permission to implement the forced redundancies by July 2018.
However, Electrical Trades Union deputy secretary Dave McKinley said the company’s target was to halve its workforce by 2019 which meant 1600 jobs were at risk.
He said 78 workers were employed at Essential Energy in Orange and 40 of those jobs were at risk.
And he said smaller depots including Molong and Canowindra might close.
“The decision means that within the next two years up to 1600 highly-skilled power workers who live and work in regional NSW could be without a job.”
Essential Energy Chief Executive Officer John Cleland said the exact number of jobs to go had not been finalised.
He said company officials would be visiting 60 NSW sites in the next few days to discuss the ruling.
“We have no plans to implement the provisions before Christmas, except for those employees previously identified as redeployees (around 30).”
United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly called for workers who lost their jobs to be provided with assistance packages including retraining, small business advice and recognition of skills and training.
“This decision is one of the biggest blows to employment in regional NSW that has ever occurred,” he said.
The unions called on Nationals leader John Barilaro to intervene to save jobs.
Mr Barilaro said in Orange on Thursday it was Essential Energy’s responsibility.
“I am as concerned as everybody in relation to job losses, but I’m also concerned about prices of electricity for businesses and homeowners and making sure we have reliable power supply. We’ve got to find a balance,” he said.
“We will be there in place to support Essential Energy workers, let’s hope they will do this in a way that it doesn’t impact on regional communities and does it in the best way to support those workers.”
Member for Orange Philip Donato said there were 205 Essential Energy workers in the Orange electorate and if half them lost work it would cost the economy $8 million.
“The NSW Government is 100 percent of Essential Energy and has the power to intervene and save these jobs,” he said.