Electrical Contracting, Service Industry and Equipment Technicians

Young electricians in Sydney are now reporting that some electrical contracting bosses are ‘setting up’ workers to dud them out of entitlements such as annual leave, RDO’s, leave loading and notice period. This can often amount to tens of thousands of dollars which the bosses refuse to pay the workers

The ETU has now been involved in several cases that have come to light where workers are told that the employer has evidence of misconduct including issues such as theft or working outside of work for someone else.  Often this is just an allegation without any proof but the employer points to dodgy contracts drawn up to pressure the young workers.

Also In some cases young workers have been told that because they did not return PPE such as, a shirt or hard hat, then the company will not pay them their entitlements. These bosses then threaten the workers with legal action and even the police. Some of these workers are given an ultimatum ‘either you resign or we will sack you’ and that they will tell others in the industry that these workers are no good at their job. Faced with this intimidation from bosses some workers have walked away without their entitlements.

In one particular case, a young electrician in Sydney who worked for a contractor who was subcontracted to Heyday 5, sought assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman.  However, instead of the Fair Work Ombudsman advising the electrician that he could join a relevant union, he was told that he could seek legal assistance.  The young worker then engaged a lawyer who charged him approximately $400 per hour to represent him.  Faced with potential legal action from his former employer, and owed almost $20,000, the young electrician was forced to represent himself at great cost. 

Incredibly, the employer cancelled four mediation appointments with the Fair Work Ombudsman leaving the young worker stressed and at a loss to how to recover his entitlements and stop the increasing legal costs.  Then the young electrician heard about the ETU after a visit to site by organisers Antony Stegic and Fred Barbin.  The worker was told that the ETU could represent him and that we would pursue his case

The ETU agreed to a final mediation with the Fair Work Ombudsman to resolve things.  However, far from settling the amount owed, the employer argued that the worker should provide evidence of what he had done. Unbelievably, despite the employer agreeing that the amount of money owed for the entitlements was correct, pressure was applied to the young Electrician to settle for nearly half of what he was entitled to. The dodgy boss provided no evidence at all despite owing the money for four months.  The ETU officials were shocked at the process to say the least, which allowed an employer to withhold entitlements worth nearly $20,000 for four months without any evidence to Fair Work, the young electrician or the ETU.

Since the failure of the mediation at Fair Work, ETU officials have visited numerous sites in an effort to address the issue.  The good news is that the new ETU member’s problem has now been resolved. Not only has the ETU recovered the full amount but the dodgy boss has even agreed to pay the legal costs incurred by the young electrician. 

The young electrician in this example had nothing but praise for the ETU.

“If it wasn’t for the presence of the ETU officials during the mediation I would have felt pressured to accept half of what I was entitled to.” said the young electrician who cannot be named as part of the negotiated settlement.

ETU recruitment officer Antony Stegic was happy that he and colleague Fred Barbin were able to secure entitlements that rightfully belonged to the ETU member.

“Young electricians and apprentice should join the ETU to find out their rights.” Antony said.

“If you are put in a similar situation DO NOT RESIGN call an ETU official immediately.

“Many young people in the industry are taken advantage of by dodgy bosses who would rather buy themselves expensive cars with your hard earned money.” said Antony.

“The ETU is not here to mediate away electrician’s entitlements, we are here to make sure dodgy bosses pay what they owe”. Antony finished.

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.

Working in Heat

Posted on 13-12-2016

Weather forecasters are predicting that temperatures will be in excess of 38*C across NSW while the ACT is expected to reach temperatures exceeding 33*C.

All members should be aware of the dangers of heat stress please follow the links below for further information from SafeWork NSW on working in heat.

SAFEWORK NSW HEAT RELATED ILLNESS

SAFEWORK NSW HOT & COLD ENVIRONMENTS

SAFEWORK NSW MANAGING THE WORK ENVIRONMENT CODE OF PRACTICE

ETU members should take appropriate action depending on your individual health and work situation, including but not limited to taking regular breaks, conducting individual (personal) risk assessment and/or ceasing work completely.

Members should exercise extreme care as temperatures rise. If you have any questions about working in heat please contact your workplace delegate or ETU organiser.

In unity,

Dave McKinley - Deputy Secretary

CUB 55 REINSTATED ON FULL PAY!

Posted on 08-12-2016

Yesterday the CUB55 were reinstated by their employer Carlton & United Breweries to their old jobs on full pay, representing a massive victory for these workers made possible thought strong collective action and the support of their unions the ETU and AMWU.

ETU NSW members must be congratulated on their efforts and support for these workers through your countless workplace actions, fund raisers, donations, rally’s and messages of support – without your support this campaign would not have gained the traction it did.

Your commitment to boycott CUB products hit the company where it hurt - in the back pocket - the good news is we can now return to the CUB products we all love to drink.

Thank you for your support over the past few months it has made a huge difference and helped these workers secure what was rightfully theirs in time for Christmas.

In Unity,
Dave McKinley
Deputy Secretary.

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.

Unions NSW will be holding a lunchtime Workers Compensation rally outside NSW Parliament on 4 November 2016 at 12:30pm

The rally coincides with public hearings for the first review of the 2012 workers compensation changes.

Unions NSW has made an extensive submission to the Law and Justice Committee painting a horrifying picture of the scale of the devastation wreaked by the changes to workers compensation: from suicides to soup kitchens and everything in between.

At the rally on 4 November 2016 we will be hearing from injured workers and highlighting the harsh impact of the 2012 changes on the injured workers of NSW and their families.

There will also be regional events:

Wollongong - 31 October 2016
Orange - 2 November 2016
Newcastle - 3 November; and
A date for an event in Lismore is being finalised.

By keeping the pressure on the Government about workers comp we have won significant changes including more than doubling the medical cap and reducing the threshold for lifetime cover among other changes. This rally is an important part of our plan to keep winning improvements to the scheme.

Sydney Event Details:
Outside NSW Parliament, Macquarie St Sydney
12:30pm on Friday 4 November 2016