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Hundreds of regional NSW jobs on the line

AAP logoAAP 24/11/2016

The state's new Deputy Premier John Barilaro is being urged to protect regional workers after state-owned electricity distributor Essential Energy was given the green light to slash hundreds of jobs.

Following a key ruling by the Fair Work Commission on Wednesday, the company will now have the power to forcibly cut at least 600 jobs.

The decision also allows for an unlimited number of workers from rural and regional communities to be sacked from July 1, 2018, according to the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

The ETU said it expects the forced redundancies to start within coming weeks, after its submission that no redundancies occur before the Christmas and New Year period was rejected by the commission.

The ETU and United Services Union, which together represent the majority of Essential Energy workers, have urged the state's new deputy premier to intervene.

"This is our challenge for John Barilaro: show that the National Party has learnt from the Orange by-election, stop towing the Baird government's line, and demand that this publicly-owned company not press ahead with these wholesale job cuts," ETU deputy secretary Dave McKinley said.

"The economic and social impact of such huge job cuts - which will tear hundreds of millions of dollars out of the economies of rural communities - will be untold human suffering in the communities the National Party claims to represent," he said.

Opposition MPs echoed the calls on Thursday, with Opposition leader Luke Foley labelling it Mr Barilaro's "first real test" in the freshly-minted role.

Shooters Fishers and Farmers MLC Robert Borsak and his newly-elected colleague Phil Donato, who won the seat of Orange on a knife-edge this week, meanwhile, urged Mr Barilaro "to stand up against these job cuts from city-centric Liberal party policies".

In its written determination, the Fair Work Commission acknowledged its ruling would have a substantial impact on workers and regional communities.

"Employees located in country towns will find it difficult to obtain alternative work, either of a comparable standard or at all, in their current locations," it said.

"It is likely that many redundant employees will have to relocate themselves and their families in order to obtain alternative employment. This will necessarily have direct personal effects on employees and their family members in having to change their house, community and school."

Comment is being sought from Mr Barilaro, who is travelling to Orange on Thursday.

Mr Barilaro released a statement later on Thursday saying he was concerned about the potential impact on employees across regional NSW.

"I note that no final decision has been made by Essential Energy, however, should the company decide to proceed with changes to its workforce the NSW government will work employees and industry to ensure impacts on the workforce are managed in a sensitive and orderly way," he said in a statement to AAP.

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