The state opposition leader Jodi McKay has challenged the leader of The Nationals' John Barilaro to halt jobs cuts at Essential Energy.
The energy provider has confirmed 182 jobs are set to go in the first round of cuts with around 500 to go by 2024. An agreed deadline for redundancies lapses on Friday, August 16.
Since 2015, more than 2000 jobs have been cut from Essential Energy, nearly halving the workforce, according to the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).
Mr Barilaro's office was contacted for comment.
Ms McKay was in Port Macquarie on Tuesday, August 13, along with her deputy Yasmin Catley and shadow minister for energy Adam Searle. The trio met with Essential Energy staff.
"John Barilaro launched a tirade against Essential Energy for the amount of money being spent on a Buller Street headquarters upgrade in Port Macquarie and the blow out in executive staff," Ms McKay said.
"The Nationals have said they are committed to no loss of rural or regional jobs.
"Well, Essential Energy says these jobs are going - something like 35 alone in Port Macquarie, and some 500 jobs across the state."
An Essential Energy spokesperson said over the past three years they have briefed employees, the unions and other stakeholders on projections for the proposed future shape and size of its workforce.
"As part of the consultations for the current workforce reshaping proposal, we have provided detailed briefings to employees and other stakeholders," the spokesperson said.
Consultation with employees in impacted roles commenced in July 2019.
"Final proposed employee reduction numbers and locations won't be known until the consultation and selection process is completed," the spokesperson said.
"All employees affected by the proposed changes are, and will continue to be, fully supported through the transition.
"Our preference remains that any necessary workforce reductions are, to the greatest extent possible, achieved through natural attrition and other exits, but clearly this is not always an option."
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams said the opposition needed to be realistic.
"Where has the opposition been on this matter. This has been bubbling away for months and we have heard nothing from the opposition leader, the deputy leader or a shadow minister," she said.
"And now they turn up and pretend they care about jobs in Port Macquarie.
"There's been no questions on the floor of the house, no meetings with the treasurer or the deputy leader or the minister."
Mrs Williams said she had been working behind the scenes and had called on the government to investigate some of the issues raised by current and former staff.
The local member said she was continuing to have ongoing consultation and conversations with decision-makers and (Essential Energy) staff.
"John Barilaro is coming to Port Macquarie tomorrow (Wednesday evening) for a function and is addressing a chamber breakfast on Thursday morning.
"He will be hearing from me when he arrives in town," she said.
Ms McKay described the currently issue with Essential Energy as a real test for Mr Barilaro.
"The state government is the 100 per cent owner of Essential Energy. The treasurer and the minister for finance are the shareholder owners of Essential Energy.
"The government can put a stop to this. They can put a stop to this right now," she said.
"The challenge for The Nats is to prove they have influence over these two ministers."
Mr Searle said an investigation is not needed to see what's happening inside the power provider.
"We want Essential Energy to come to the next budget estimates. It is up to the government to bring him (CEO John Cleland) or not," he said.
"It is really hard to justify when you are sacking people but also putting $11 million on an upgrade for your headquarters.
"There is a real disconnect between management and workers."
Ms Catley said the impact of the job cuts is always felt harder in rural and regional centres.
"The impact of these job cuts is significant," she said.
"If John Barilaro does not stand up for these workers, he is in trouble."
The opposition also supported union calls to bring outsourced roles back into the workload of Essential Energy workers.
Ms McKay also hit back at claims the opposition was politicising the job cuts.
"We are being political. We are talking about 500 jobs going across Essential Energy and 34 of those in Port Macquarie," she said.
"The government has let this happen. It should never have gotten to this point."
The opposition leader said the Labor Party was focused on a number of areas including cost of living challenges, reversing the decline in manufacturing, climate change and protecting consumers.