Electrical Contracting, Service Industry and Equipment Technicians

Electrical Contracting, Service Industry and Equipment Technicians

Dodgy boss rips off workers

- Friday, May 13, 2016

A dodgy boss from Wollongong company VMH Electrical has ripped off his workers after it was discovered the company was up to a year behind in Superannuation payments.

The ETU has stepped in to fight VMH Electrical to ensure members get what they are legally owed. After initial investigations the ETU believes that workers are owed tens of thousands of dollars from unpaid superannuation and other entitlements.

ETU Organiser Stewart Edward said that the only people to receive super payments were the boss and his family members.

“It would appear that most of the superannuation that has been paid is that of the boss and his family members.” Stewart said.

“On top of super it looks like workers have been robbed of leave accruals, wages, leave loading and RDO’s as well.

“Bosses that do not pay workers their entitlements are stealing and the ETU will not stand for this kind of criminal behavior.” said Stewart.

ETU member Kaan, said that if it was the other way around workers would be answerable to the police and probably end up in jail.

“I'm so angry, the boss at VMH has done nothing but lie about our wages and entitlements. It’s clear he had no intention of paying us, if I had stolen money from the boss I would go to jail.” said Kaan.

“On top of this the boss tried to blame us and the union for the trouble, but without the ETU it would have been impossible to get the advice and guidance we need.

“The ETU is our only chance of getting what is rightfully ours.” Kaan said.

The ETU is now representing members to make sure they get what is owed to them. Stewart Edward said that this is yet another example why we need strong unions in the construction sector.

“It’s a disgrace that the Liberals and Nations have dissolved Parliament in an attempt to bring in anti-union laws that would restrict unions being able to fight for workers in situations like this.” said Stewart.

VMH electrical does work for some of Sydney’s big builders and electrical contractors but despite this the union believes the company may be in the process of winding up operations.

Apprentice electrician rushed to hospital following serious fall at Barangaroo construction site

- Thursday, May 05, 2016

A first-year electrical apprentice has been rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital following a fall of approximately five metres at the Barangaroo construction site in Darling Harbour.

The incident occurred shortly after 8am today when the apprentice fell through a temporary floor cover over one of the service risers.

The apprentice, employed by the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) Group Training company and working for Stowe Australia, was being supervised by another apprentice at the time of the fall. This second apprentice raised the alarm.

Officials from the Electrical Trades Union attended the site immediately following the incident and have already identified a number of other safety breaches, including workers being exposed to live electrical cables.

The builder, Lend Lease, has moved to stop all riser work in tower three until a review of the electrical contractor Stowe Australia has been undertaken.

ETU organiser Stewart Edward said that the apprentice suffered leg and back injuries.

“From what we know so far, the apprentice appears to have suffered leg and back injuries after calling approximately five metres,” Mr Edward said.

“He was treated on the scene by ambulance paramedics and has been transported to Royal North Shore Hospital.

“Thankfully, his injuries do not appear to be critical.

“Today’s incident is the latest in a string of safety breaches on the Barangaroo site, including some that have resulted in workers losing their lives.

“Both Stowe Australia and NECA Group Training have a legal responsibility to provide a safe work environment.

“If it is found that they have breached their responsibilities it could lead to prosecution of both organisations, which is something we will be looking at very closely.”

The union informed SafeWork NSW, with inspectors attending the scene to carry out their own investigation.

“This incident could easily have ended with a tragic outcome,” Mr Edward said.

“The ETU will be pursuing this matter to ensure that this kind of incident does not occur again.”


ETU Fredon Members Ready to Walk

- Thursday, April 14, 2016

ETU members at Sydney electrical contractor Fredon are preparing to take industrial action in pursuit of a new agreement after Fredon management rejected ETU member’s claims.

Negotiations started for a new agreement back in November last year and ever since this time management have been pushing to strip rights and conditions from ETU members based on non-union agreements accepted by some ETU members at other companies.

The ETU is fighting on behalf of members for an 11% pay increase to be paid over the life of a three-year agreement plus improvements to some agreement clauses, but management are refusing to budge saying that the company has to have “a code compliant” agreement despite the construction code not even being law and unlikely to ever become law.

Management are also pushing to strip important protections from the agreement such as apprentice rates, the labour hire clause and the delegates rights clause.

ETU construction recruitment officer Fred Barbin said that ETU members are strong and united in their pursuit of a good agreement and will take action if necessary.

“ETU members at Fredon are staunch.” said Fred.

“In the protected action ballot a vast majority of members voted in favour of taking protected industrial action which could include 24, 48 and 72 hour strikes.

“I know our blokes at Fredon are ready to take action, their fed up.

“It’s time for Fredon management to consider our claim and come to the party or risk having their workforce walk out and jobs come to a grinding halt.” Fred said.

“Some other employers may have been able to force through non-union agreements with shitty sub-standards conditions but I can guarantee it won’t be happening at Fredon.

“Management already tried this on and ETU members told them where to stick it by voting a similar agreement down.

“If management want a blue we’re ready to go but I know who I’m backing.” said Fred.

The ETU are waiting to hear back from Fredon management and the union will report back to members next week.

ETU calls on Safework NSW to act over NECA’s ‘failure to notify’ of electric shock to apprentice.

- Thursday, March 17, 2016

On Tuesday 14 March at a John Holland’s site in Alexandria a young apprentice received an electric shock having been exposed to an energized electrical circuit.  The apprentice was employed by National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and was working with host company Barmwell Cambridge.

After suffering an electric shock the apprentice was taken to hospital and has since made a full recovery. Serious questions remain with regard to supervision of the apprentice and also the aftermath of the dangerous incident.

The Electrical Trades Union visited the site to investigate, this is the second time ETU organiser Stewart Edward has visited the site in the last month over safety concerns.  Unbelievably in both safety breaches neither the builder John Holland nor the contractors involved have notified the state regulator charged with overseeing the health and safety of workers in NSW.

John Holland assert that they are only required to notify the commonwealth regulator, Comcare.  John Holland management on site insisted that they are not responsible for notifying the state regulator that they only have to tell the contractor (or PCBU) to notify SafeWork NSW about a 'serious incident' or 'dangerous incident'. On both occasions it was the ETU who informed SafeWork NSW of the notifiable incident.

ETU Organiser Stewart Edward said that no one, including the apprentices’ employer NECA Group Training, had bothered to notify the safety regulator.

"When I phoned SafeWork this morning no notification had been received about the electric shock including from the apprentices’ employer".

John Holland management claimed that 3 people had attended the site to investigate the incident however it has been revealed that these 'inspectors' were actually from NECA and no-one from Safe-work NSW had attended the site.

John Holland has taken steps to have all apprentices cease work on the site until a full investigation is carried out by SafeWork NSW. The ETU is increasingly concerned about supervision of ap-prentices in the industry and is calling on SafeWork NSW to ur-gently address the current situation.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 is very clear about “a person who conducts a business or undertaking” or PCBU. See below your rights regarding notifiable incidents.

38 Duty to notify of notifiable incidents
(1)  A person who conducts a business or undertaking must ensure that the regulator is notified immediately after becoming aware that a notifiable incident arising out of the conduct of the business or undertaking has occurred.
(a) In the case of an individual—$10 000.
(b) In the case of a body corporate—$50 000.
(2)  The notice must be given in accordance with this section and by the fastest possible means.
(3)  The notice must be given: (a) by telephone; or

Example: The written notice can be given by facsimile, email or other electronic means.
(4)  A person giving notice by telephone must:
(a)  give the details of the incident requested by the regulator; and
(b)  if required by the regulator, give a written notice of the incident within 48 hours of that requirement being made.
(5)  A written notice must be in a form, or contain the details, approved by the regulator.
(6)  If the regulator receives a notice by telephone and a written notice is not required, the regulator must give the person conducting the business or undertaking:
(a) details of the information received; or
(b) an acknowledgement of receiving the notice.
(7)  A person conducting a business or undertaking must keep a record of each notifiable incident for at least 5 years from the day that notice of the incident is given to the regulator under this section.
(a) In the case of an individual—$5000.
(b) In the case of a body corporate—$25 000.

39 Duty to preserve incident sites
(1)  The person with management or control of a workplace at which a notifiable incident has occurred must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, that the site where the incident occurred is not disturbed until an inspector arrives at the site or any earlier time that an inspector directs.
(a) In the case of an individual—$10 000.
(b) In the case of a body corporate—$50 000.
(2)  In subsection (1) a reference to a site includes any plant, substance, structure or thing associated with the notifiable incident.
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 No. 137, 2011 43

Incident notification Part 3 Section 39
(b) in writing.
Part 3 Incident notification Section 39
(3) Subsection (1) does not prevent any action:
(a)  to assist an injured person; or
(b)  to remove a deceased person; or
(c)  that is essential to make the site safe or to minimise the risk of a further notifiable inci-dent; or
(d)  that is associated with a police investigation; or
(e)  for which an inspector or the regulator has given permission.

Apprentice numbers down as Liberals & Nationals gut TAFE

- Friday, March 04, 2016

The ETU is seriously concerned at the latest figures which show the number of people undertaking an apprenticeship - including in the electrical trades - has plummeted.

Shadow Minister for Skill's David Harris pointed out today that the number of apprenticeships being undertaking in September last year was 82,600 down from 146,200 in 2010.

This drop of almost 50% in five years is alarming. At the same time the ETU has witnessed a reduction in the quality of trade outcomes following the implementation of "Smart & Skilled" which has financially gutted the TAFE system and reduced face to face training time.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler said that this is a worrying trend which is not reversed will have severe consequences for all trades right across NSW.

"We have had feedback from many employers saying that the quality of apprentice training has dropped significantly." Steve said.

"On the job employers are seeing a drop off in the skills of apprentices particularly around competency and safety."

"The ETU has commissioned research into trade outcomes to help identify the problem and how it may be addressed."

"We have already started talking to MPs about changes and we will have more to say on this front later this month." said Steve.

Downer Orica ETU members forced to hold Protected Action Ballot.

- Thursday, March 03, 2016

The ETU, on behalf of members working for Downer’s Construction Division at Orica, has today filed for a Protected Action Ballot after management totally ignored ETU members log of claim in agreement negotiation’s.

During negotiations management told employees that they are seeking to cut wages and conditions by 7% to 10% despite the company CEO, Grant Fenn, taking home a salary package of $3.7 million (Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November 2015.

ETU Organiser Steve Bankes pointed to other areas where the company is splashing money around including an expensive corporate rebranding, major sponsor of the Auckland Nines and healthy dividends for shareholders.

“It appears that Downer are happy to splash money around and invest in everything except their workforce.” Steve Bankes said.

“It’s not as though our guys were seeking massive pay increases or a long list of new conditions, all we wanted was a fair deal with a decent wage outcome.”

Negotiations have been ongoing for many months but have collapsed after Downer management dug their heals in and refused to change their position. Some of managements demands include…

  • 1 year wage freeze
  • Increasing the work week from 36 hours to 38 hours
  • Reducing MERT from $75 to $30 per week
  • Cutting apprentice rates, and;
  • Reducing total amount of take home allowances

On the contrary the ETU’s log of claim included modest outcomes including a 4% pay rise per year, minor changes to some wording, payment of $150 per year to cover the cost of work boots and CPI increase to allowances among some other items.

The Fair Work Commission today approved the unions application to conduct a Protected Action Ballot unopposed and members will receive voting papers in the coming weeks. THE ETU IS URGING ALL MEMBERS TO SUPPORT THE PROTECTED ACTION BALLOT BY VOTING YES TO ALL QUESTIONS.

If members have any questions please direct these to Steve Bankes sbankes@etunsw.asn.au or 0414 877 553.



- Friday, October 30, 2015

After receiving calls just prior to the October long weekend, I visited the North Bondi Waste Water Treatment Plant where ODG are working on upgrades to the facility. The original call I got was saying that workers had been stood down on RDO’s because of safety concerns. On arrival and after receiving a frosty reception from management, I started to learn more about what was occurring 50 metres below ground in the scrubber area of the plant.

At the end of August work had commenced to grind down some old fibre glass tanks,  that were thick with old paint. The ODG crew had been sent away while this took place, which is obviously good practice as there’s no air flow where the work was taking place and concerns had been raised about lead in the old paint and if testing was going to be performed.

On return to the site it was obvious no attempt had been made to vacuum up the thick layer of fibre glass and paint dust, so issues were raised once more. At one stage labourers were brought in to clean up while the sparkies were working and brushed the dust straight down over the work crew! To which the answer was there’s washing machines provided, wash your clothes before you go home, especially if you have young kids or elderly folk at home.

ODG tried to bring in a new leading hand to oversee the job and after inspecting the site he said “if I get sent here I’ll give in my notice and resign!”

The next wonderful idea from management was to get a hosepipe and wash down the live cable trays, that had light fittings suspended from it, to get rid of the toxic dust. Well to the sparkies this was a crazy idea, so that got knocked on the head as quick as it was thought about!

On the 23rd of September the question was once again raised about testing of the dust samples, to which the answer from management was “no.”

Finally on the 25th of September tests samples were taken and by the 1st October the results came back at which time a hard copy was requested by work crew, which was denied.

Anecdotally I’ve heard these results contained levels of chromium, nickel, fibre glass among other substances, of which we don’t know if they’re safe levels, due to ODG’s secrecy tactics.

When I got to site one of the first questions I asked the safety co-ordinator was about the SWMS’s, which hadn’t been up dated for months, to account for the changing conditions in the work place. Also there had been a lack of consultation with the work crew regarding the health aspects of the proceedings, so I had no choice but to call in workcover to try and get to the bottom of what was happening. An inspector did attend the site more than a week later but admitted she was not a specialist and would have to pass on the results to a colleague who knows more about these matters. She was also assured that I’d been sent an email with results of the tests, which as yet hasn’t eventuated.

As a result of what has occurred some different workers have now been sent to the site, while some of the original crew have been sent elsewhere, that tells a story itself! The new crew have been told they now have to wear P2 masks and disposable overalls all day at work.

This is all from one of the largest nationwide electrical contractors, with all the resources and safety checks and balances supposedly in place.

I’m still waiting for a response. 

What do you have to hide ODG??
In Unity – Steve Bankes, ETU Organiser

ETU supports Real Men Wear Pink launch

- Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Last week ETU members supported the National Breast Cancer Foundation "Real Men Wear Pink" campaign which is sponsored by Bisley Workwear.

ETU members across the construction industry would be familiar with the campaign that encourages men to wear pink to work to raise awareness of breast cancer. Every year across Australia construction workers get behind the campaign by wearing pink high vis shirts and hard hats to work while also raising money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Last week Unions NSW launched the union movements support for the campaign and below are a couple of photo's of ETU members and officials who attended the launch at Trades Hall. ETU Legal Research Officer - Ron De La Caudra took out first prize in the fashion parade!





ETU Secures Back pay for Downer Apprentices

- Thursday, October 22, 2015

Downer recently made the decision to move six apprentices from their construction division to their servicing division and in doing so attempted to reduce four NECA Group apprentices pay by five dollars per hour.

ETU Organiser Steve Bankes stepped in and the ETU not only secured the higher pay rate for all six apprentices we also won five weeks back pay for the four NECA apprentices delivering more than $1,000 per apprentice.

“This is a good little win we have had for these apprentices and is a really good example of how it pays to be an ETU member.” said Steve Bankes.

“We were not only able to secure the higher pay rate for all six apprentices but we effectively stopped the company from having two tiered pay rates for apprentices in their servicing division – being one rate for direct employed apprentices and a lower rate for group training apprentices.”

“Downer also agreed to back pay the four apprentices impacted which will see each apprentice receive in excess of $1,000 each.” Steve said.

“I perplexes me why some employers continue to penny pinch from apprentices when these young guys are already doing it tough and struggling to keep their head above water.”

"What we do know is that Downer intend to reduce apprentices pay in the future through the EBA process but we will fight this move to protect our apprentice members."

“This should be a warning to all construction bosses – go after apprentice rates and the ETU will come after you.” Steve said.

ETU Canberra Rally to Stop the China Free Trade Agreement

- Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Abbott Government negotiated the terms of the China Free Trade Agreement in secret because it comes at the cost of local jobs, worker safety, workplace rights and community safety.

Next Monday we're rallying in Canberra to stop the China Free Trade Agreement and demand the Government renegotiate the deal in the interests of the community.

Use your lunch break to join the rally – more information in the attached flyer. RSVP here.

August 10, 2015 at 12pm - 1pm

Garema Place, Canberra
25 Garema Pl
Canberra, ACT 2600

The public is overwhelmingly against this deal and making our message heard is crucial to protecting local jobs. Invite your friends and colleagues. See you there.