Electrical Contracting, Service Industry and Equipment Technicians

The 2017 ETU construction RDO calendar is now available for members online and printed versions are available from ETU organisers.

This morning ETU members at Fredon voted down Fredon's nonunion EBA.  A clear majority of nearly 90 workers overwhelmingly rejected the company's offer to give up their hard fought conditions in return for little more than back pay. The bosses had tried to sneak the agreement out without consulting the ETU, delegates or talking to the workers using 'the carrot' of the back pay and 'the stick' of it not being offered again!

Fredon bosses, including recently appointed NECA national President, Alan Brown rolled out the nonunion EBA to its workers on Friday 9th of December, despite an agreement between Fredon and their employees and their appointed bargaining agent, the ETU. After negotiations stalled earlier this year, Fredon bosses issued an email to its workforce saying that the ETU was seeking further legal advice. The ETU agreed with Fredon management to resume negotiations once they had that advice. Instead of sticking to that agreement, Fredon bosses sought to undermine the union by claiming the ETU had failed to get back to them.  These are the underhanded tactics NECA members have been using for years.

As Fredon bosses are well aware, the only time the ETU could start to get firm advice was after the Federal Election and then the subsequent vote in the Federal senate. This legislation regarding the ABCC and the 'building code only became law from midnight 2nd December 2016. Only then could the ETU start to determine a position which was best for it's members without being forced to give up key employment security clauses protecting labour hire and apprentices rates.  The ETU is currently working through the ramifications of the extreme legislation which was lobbied for by NECA ( see Alan Brown) and passed in the senate by the liberal/nationals, and independents including Pauline Hanson(one nation), Nick Xenophon, Derren Hynch and others.

Th ETU will continue to update members at Fredon on the requests made to Fredon management to sit down to negotiate a union EBA

On behalf of its members at Fredon and across the contracting sector the ETU would like to wish all members,  activists and delegates a Merry Christmas and a happy 2017.

The North West Rapid Transit (NRT) consortium, made up of Hong Kong’s MRT Corporation, John Holland, CPB Contractors and UGL Rail, were unable to produce a heat policy on-site at Schofields yesterday as the temperature climbed above 37*C.

ETU official Tony Stegic attended the site to meet with ETU members and upon leaving found the temperature rising above 37*C. Tony re-entered the site using his OHS access permit and asked NRT for their working in heat policy which the principle contractor was unable to produce.

After dicking around and trying to pass the buck the builder admitted that they did not have a working in heat policy and went on to say “what difference does it make if its 37 or 47…”.

Tony Stegic said that it is this kind of attitude from builders that leads to serious injury and workers being exposed to situations that are unsafe.

“I couldn’t believe what this builder was saying when the temperature was climbing and workers were exposed to a potentially dangerous work environment that could quickly develop into an emergency if a worker suffers heat stroke or other heat related illnesses.” said Tony.

“I immediately contacted SafeWork NSW who said that they would “triage” the job and send an inspector if the agency deemed the situation to be dangerous.”

“It’s disturbing that there are builders out there that do not have a policy in place to deal with severe heat given we are coming into the middle of summer where this kind of occurrence is only going to increase.

“My message to ETU members is keep an eye on the mercury, watch the temperature and if it’s getting too hot or you can see your workmates struggling take the necessary action to make the situation safe including taking a break, conduct a hazard assessment and even stop work all together.” Tony said.

After the recent revelations concering Lend Lease at Barangaroo, the approcah of major builders are taking towards safety is unacceptable.

The ETU will be out on job sites making sure members are protected from severe heat over the summer months – if you know of a dodgy builder that is not abiding by the rules when it comes to working in heat contact the union and we will provide advice and visit the site if necessary.

Sydney Construction Mass Meeting

Posted on 16-11-2016

The ETU is holding a mass meeting for all Sydney Construction members on Thursday 24 November. Issues to be discussed include developments in the Sydney Construction sector and issues faced by electricians, but most of all we want to hear from you.
 
This meeting is an opportunity for members to have their say about what is happening in the industry and to also hear from ETU Deputy Secretary Dave McKinley. Invitations have also been extended to ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks and ETU National Assistant Secretary Dave Mier plus officials from other states.
 
We want to hear from you about your experience onsite including Labour Hire, Apprentices and the various EBA's that have been voted on and supported by a majority of members at each company.
 
Many members are taking 4 hours RDO on the day in order to attend, we urge all members to come along, listen and have your say. Full details are below:
 
What: ETU Sydney Construction Mass Meeting
When: Thursday 24 November 2016
Where: Sydney Congress Hall, 140 Elizabeth Street Sydney - Note new location.
 
In unity,
The ETU Construction Team.

Canberra Construction Update

Posted on 10-11-2016

Electrical Contracting in Canberra construction is a mix of major companies and smaller locals companies competing for work.

The ETU has commenced negotiations with the ACT Branch of Heyday 5 and we will not be expecting any shenanigans like those suffered by our Sydney brothers.

The ETU will also be commencing negotiations with a local company, Martin Donnelly, and we have concluded negotiations, with a good result, with Shepherd Electrical earlier this year. Our friends at Fredon are years late, a dollar short and slow to the table.

While we have continued relatively good relationship with most companies one has snuck under the radar. We attempted a number of times to contact Stowe by post, phone, visits and email. But no response.

What Stowe was up to was convincing employees they needed a “race to the bottom” resulting in some of the lowest rates of pay for Electricians in this area. When the ETU discovered a crappy non-union EBA was lodged in the Fair Work Commission we opposed the agreement. Unfortunatly, the employees had trusted the boss, swallowed the bait and voted yes.

The Stowe Canberra EBA, supported by a majority, provides the following:

  • Transferred apprentices to NECA group training and cuts 30% out of their rates of pay
  • Specifically excluded apprentices from the EBA – to continue low pay rates
  • The existing Licensed Electricians are currently on a rate of $40.72 which will be increased after 2 years by 2.1%
  • The next increase after that will be at 3 years and 2.1%
  • This has created a 1% per year EBA – a tragic outcome for highly skilled workers.

From there it’s all downhill:

  • Newly employed Electricians will start at $29.46 per hour
  • This rate will increase to a maximum of $36.83 per hour after going through a number of steps
  • The increases are at management discretion so you could remain at $29.46

In most other respects the EBA is the same as, or slightly less than, the competition. This is a race to the bottom from what used to be a good employer. This agreement is a dog, and there is no other way of describing it.

ETU Officials in Newcastle are telling me this agreement is now being used as the “blueprint” and being portrayed as the model. ETU members across the state should not fall for this and the only way to secure a better outcome is to join the union, get active, stick together and stand your ground. When it comes to large companies like Stowe, this approach and attempt to dud workers with a substandard agreement is unacceptable.

Stowe cannot be allowed to get away with this anywhere else and while they may have got their Canberra agreement registered, the ETU will be watching these grubs very closely ready to take action at any opportunity.

All ETU members should immediately alert their organiser if their boss attempts to pull a swiftly and follow in the miserable footsteps of Stowe Canberra.

ETU members across the construction sector are raising money and awareness around site safety after five construction workers were killed on Sydney construction sites over the past three weeks.

ETU Recruitment Officer, Mick Hopper said that ETU members were paying their respects to those workers that have lost their lives on construction sites by wearing black arm bands and observing a minute silence at meetings held across sites this week.

“Over the past three weeks we have seen five guys lose their lives on Sydney construction sites.” Said Mick Hopper.

“That is five men to many and five men that did not go home to their families which is unacceptable.

“ETU members are paying their respects and raising awareness about site safety at the same time to make sure no one else is tragically killed.” Mick Hopper said.

“I want to make sure every single ETU member goes home safe each day and our union will not tolerate dodgy bosses who take short cuts when it comes to OHS.”

“If any member has any concerns about safety they should immediately notify the ETU who will attend site and respond to concerns.” said Mick.

Apprentice Electrician Karlyn Hinchy, daughter of long time ETU lift industry member Brad Hinchy, recently received a $500 tool voucher after completing the ETU apprentice survey.

ETU Assistant Secretary Dave McKinley presented Karlyn with her voucher and thanked apprentices for completing the survey which will assist the ETU across the country in better serving and representing electrical apprentices.

Dave said that Apprentices represent an important part of our trade and that the ETU will continue to fight to strengthen and protect our apprenticeship and trade training system.

"Electrical apprentices have a rewarding career to look forward to as they embark on a journey in the most respected trade." said Dave McKinley

"As our trade develops and evolves with new technology, the ETU will continue to stand up and fight for electrical apprentices and other workers in the electrical trades to ensure our license and trade training system remain first class.

"We can not allow governments or employers to dumb down our trade, license or safety standards under the smoke screen of lower regulation and greater efficiency.

"The ETU will not allow these kinds of attacks to occur and our first port of call will be to represent and protect our apprentices." said Dave.

Dear Colleague

Below you will find a link to a copy of the ETU NSW submission to the NSW Government’s approach to deregulating the apprenticeship system, the ETU NSW Branch submission was lodged Monday afternoon.

CLICK HERE DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE SUBMISSION.

The ETU NSW Branch has sought the assistance of the McKell Institute in preparing the submission.  The McKell Institute formulated the response based on industry commentary from bosses, the Union, TAFE teachers & regulators.  There is also generous input from the training industry.

Concerns about many issues are included. Here are just a few:-

  • Registered Training Organisations providing dummy training or no training at all.
  • The capacity for workers to enter Apprenticeships as independent contractors or casuals.
  • Continued reduction in face to face theory education.
  • Use of apprentices as cheap labour and supervising each other.
  • Bullying of apprentices by bosses and some tradesmen.
  • Wage rates that are so low apprentices are finding it difficult to survive.
  • Trade outcomes reduced with less rigor on the Trade.
  • Less rigor on the Trade means it’s easier to get an Electrical License and that means our Trade is undermined.

This is our biggest fight ever and I will be ensuring that we develop and initiate a campaigning approach to this matter.

Please read the report thoroughly and hold meetings in your workplace to bring the issues to the attention of your workmates. Please use the elements of the report to talk to apprentices and get them to join the campaign and join the Union.

Please feel free to forward the report on to as many of your acquaintances as you can – workers, bosses and trainers alike.

The ETU NSW Branch are going to campaign strongly on this issue and your assistance and support will be essential.

In unity

Steve Butler
Secretary

 

Bizarrely, the Fair Work Building Commission (FWBC) is now playing an astonishing role on construction sites in NSW. The ETU has been made aware from concerned parents regarding apprentices who have been targeted by the FWBC.

Following a number of visits by ETU organisers, apprentices have chosen to join the ETU. These apprentices have raised a number of concerns including:

  1. Intimidation and bullying by employers
  2. Lack (sometimes none) of supervision
  3. Underpayment of wages
  4. Forced to work in unsafe areas
  5. Apprentices being employed by companies but not registered as apprentices
  6. Apprentices being summarily dismissed by employers
  7. Apprentices not being paid to attend TAFE
  8. Apprentices receiving electric shocks while working LIVE!
  9. Failure to notify Safework of serious and dangerous incidents (electric shocks)

In fact, the list goes on. The recent campaign by the ETU has found significant failings in NSW in regards to employer’s attitude and treatment of apprentice electricians. Unbelievably, the FWBC is not interested in pursuing any agenda to protect apprentice electricians. It would also appear that the National Electrical Contractors (NECA) who represent many of the dodgy bosses has called the FWBC to pursue ETU officials while ignoring the actions of their members who are engaged in illegal activity and putting young apprentices lives at risk.

The ETU has learned over the last few weeks that the FWBC has decided to visit sites where ETU construction officials have attended. The FWBC inspectors have then accessed the personal information of these apprentices (and other Electricians) without their knowledge or consent and using their phone numbers contacted them. Apprentices and their parents have informed the ETU that apprentices have been interrogated over the phone and in some cases approached on site.

The FWBC hasn't asked any questions about the wellbeing of the apprentices or advised of their rights to join the ETU. Unsurprisingly the FWBC has set out on a fishing expedition, accessing personal phone numbers to see if they have been forced to join the ETU. The fact is electrical apprentices have rushed to join the ETU to raise concerns, and find out about their rights.

Remarkably, the FWBC inspectors have also sought to encourage workers and apprentices to leave site (while they are still working) to meet in cafes, to have a "friendly chat".

"This is an outrageous abuse of power from the Fair Work Building Commission.” Said ETU organiser Stewart Edward.

“How can it be that, if union officials were to behave in this way that both the worker and the official would be found guilty of taking illegal industrial action and fined for such action." Stewart said.

Many Australians are still unaware of who the FWBC are, and alarmingly, have no idea that the last federal election was actually called by the Turnbull Government to give the FWBC even more power.

"The new powers, if passed by the Senate, will mean the Fair Work Building Commission will be replaced by the discredited Australian Building Construction Commission and all workers in construction including, electricians and apprentices, will not have any right to silence, and in fact, if they refuse to appear before the Australian Building Construction Commission they can be sent to jail for 6 months" Stewart Edward said.

Stewart's advice to electrical apprentices is join the ETU, find out your rights, get organised and remember, you do not have to speak to the Fair Work Building Commission. If you are contacted in any way seek advice from your Union, the ETU, prior to responding to the FWBC.

The FWBC should stop harassing apprentices and focus on the dodgy bosses and NECA who would have more credibility if they stopped defending the outreagous behaviour of their members.