The Electrical Trades Union of Australia (ETU) has called on governments to consider employment and retraining opportunities for tens of thousands of workers in the energy sector as plans for the National Energy Guarantee progress.
ETU National Secretary, Allen Hicks, said with 5600MW of renewable energy projects under construction this year, and a number of coal fired power stations coming to the end of their life cycle, there was an urgent need for progressive political parties to take the lead on a just transition framework.
“Australia’s state, territory and federal governments must address and coordinate their approach to adapting and reskilling workers in this industry to ensure a fair and just transition for workers and their communities,” Mr Hicks said.
“We need leadership and a commitment to workers from all governments that they will stop meddling with the system in a way that keeps driving this uncertainty.”
Mr Hicks said as well as the need to address the expectations of workers and communities facing disruption, there is an urgent need to address the fracturing network with a national strategy.
“We are seeing a boom in solar and wind power but there is no overall plan or layout for where these projects are taking place, who is building them and who will ultimately own and control them,” Mr Hicks said.
“It’s problematic when coal-fired plants close and replacement solar farms open up hundreds of miles away because it can cost millions in the short term rerouting the network infrastructure and cost even more in the long term when the former coal communities are left desolated with no jobs and no future.”
Mr Hicks said the ETU was also concerned about the increase in cowboy operators using cheap backpacker and temporary visa labour to fill jobs on solar farms that required skilled and licensed electricians.
“How is the government allowing these wind and solar farms to be built by rogue operators who are employing unskilled and sometimes exploited foreign labour ahead of local unemployed Australians? Where are the apprenticeship opportunities for our regional youth?
“Our future energy grid must be built and maintained by local skilled tradespeople because these facilities will be powering Australia’s energy future,” Mr Hicks said.