UPDATE: An Ausgrid spokeswoman has welcomedthe unions’ decision to lift thetraining ban.
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The company on Tuesday morning withdrew its application to the Fair Work Commission as a result.

“We look forward to a continued strong relationship with both the [unions],” the spokeswoman said.

EarlierELECTRICITY workers will head to the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday to contest Ausgrid’s request that they train replacements for colleagues losing their jobs.

Ausgrid told staff it would be reducing numbers in the Geographic Information System section, which works on detailed mapping information of the network in Sydney and the Hunter, beforesigning an agreement with an Indian firm to do the work.

22 jobs are expected to go.

But the disputenow headed to court on Tuesday hinges on whether the n workers who remain in Ausgrid’s employ can refuse to fly to India and train the staff who will replace their outgoing workmates.

The case will return to the Fair Work Commission in Sydney on Tuesday morning.

Both theUnited Services Union and Electrical Trades Union have imposed a ban on their members training contractors who will replace Ausgrid workers.

The unions arguethat staff should not be forced to fly overseas to train replacements while their own ranks are thinned.

They expectAusgrid willseek to have refusals to fly over branded as unauthorised industrial action.

“It is absolutely outrageous that the new management of Ausgrid is not only sending specialist jobs overseas, but they are taking legal action to force workers to travel to India to train the consultants who will be taking these jobs,” United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said.

“Not only do we believe workers should have the right to follow their conscience and not train a workforce of overseas contractors to take the jobs of colleagues, we also dispute the company’s claim that this amounts to industrial action.”

An Ausgrid spokesperson said unions and staff were consulted on the outsourcing in early 2016, before the utility went into private hands in December.

The company billed it as a “blended delivery arrangement”, using n staff to gather and record data as well as check it against Indian firm TATA Consulting Services’ information.

“TATA Consulting Services are also used by other network operators in to provide the same types of services,” the spokesperson said.

“We know external suppliers can provide additional services safely, reliably and at a lower cost and this partnership represents a significant saving for Ausgrid.

The company said increasing efficiency was a step towards keeping power prices as low as possible without compromising safety.

“Every dollar Ausgrid spends comes from our customers,” the spokesperson said. ​


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