View Comments

The number of staff employed by WA's four energy utilities has jumped more than 20 per cent in the past four years, prompting Opposition claims of bureaucratic waste as electricity prices rocket.

Figures obtained by State Labor show the combined head-count of State-owned companies Verve, Synergy, Western Power and Horizon Power leapt from 4296 to 5213 between 2008 and this year.

Regional power provider Horizon experienced the highest growth of 101 per cent while retailer Synergy and distributor Western Power put on 25 per cent and 18 per cent extra staff respectively.

Generator Verve had the lowest increase in staff numbers, growing 10 per cent.

While the figures include contractors as well as direct employees, shadow energy minister Bill Johnston said they were a surprise given electricity prices had risen 62 per cent over the same period.

Energy Minister Peter Collier said in the case of Western Power and Horizon, the shift was attributable to an increase in network safety investment.

Mr Collier said the investment had been long overdue, thanks in part to neglect of the network by the previous Labor government.

"West Australians will never forget that it was relatively recently under Labor that we actually ran out of electricity," Mr Collier said.

Mr Johnston said growth in employment numbers flew in the face of Government utterances about "restraint and efficiency" in the public sector and would be further inflating cost pressures on electricity tariffs.

"Growth in employment at Verve hasn't been very large but all the other energy corporations have had extraordinary growth in employment numbers," he said. "Clearly it's a problem - this is feeding directly into higher electricity prices.

"The Government is not efficiently operating these companies.

"No other organisation is currently having such huge growth in employment numbers for no change in service standards or other outcomes."