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UnionsACT calls for halt & review of smart meter roll-out

UnionsACT has today called for the smart meter roll-out in the ACT to be halted and reviewed.

The new smart meter policy became operational on 1 December 2017. The policy effectively privatises the installation of electricity meters, and will see the substantial increase of electricity prices for consumers.

The program opens the installation of meters to “competition”, which allows electricity retailers to outsource and subcontract installation to for-profit installers. Meters were previously installed by highly skilled, and permanent ActewAGL staff.

The experience in other jurisdictions for privatised, competition-based roll-outs of smart meters shows that the retailers responsible for the installation engage sub-contractors whose employees are precariously employed. It is certain that this practice of outsourcing and subcontracting will occur in the ACT.

The important job of safely installing electricity meters is now subject to inappropriate cost-savings measures and profit-motives from the private sector that has had a strong negative impact on the quality of installations in other jurisdictions.

The introduction of smart meters will also substantially increase the cost of electricity for consumers. This has been the finding of the Victorian Auditor General’s 2015 report into the smart meter program in that state. The Auditor General stated unequivocally: “costs will increase”.

This policy has the very likely potential to significantly worsen economic disadvantage for a large number of households and individuals. UnionsACT believes that the roll-out of smart meters will increase the cost of electricity for almost every consumer in the ACT, and will worsen energy poverty for many of Canberra’s most disadvantaged residents.

The following quotes are attributable to Alex White, secretary of UnionsACT:

“All of the supposed benefits of the smart meter policy, which has been directed by the federal energy regulator, are non-existent.

“In fact, this policy will increase electricity prices, and reduce job security for the skilled electrical trades workers who previously installed meters.

“This agenda may suit retailers and energy suppliers who are already gouging consumers and sacking workers across the ACT and NSW, but is utterly counter to the stated social inclusion and economic equality agenda of the ACT Government.

“UnionsACT is calling on the Minister, Shane Rattenbury, to do everything he can to halt and review this new policy, to ensure working people don’t face even higher electricity prices and don’t find their jobs outsourced.”

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