ETU Media Releases

The Baird Government is putting the safety and reliability of the State’s electricity system at risk after revealing plans to sack up to 4,600 electricity workers.

Workers at publicly owned Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy will be impacted by the Baird Governments decision.

Head of Networks NSW, Vince Graham, told unions at a meeting on Friday afternoon the government- controlled businesses will write to workers across the state with the aim of sacking up to 4,600 workers or more than 30 per cent of the workforce.

Electrical Trades Union Secretary, Steve Butler said that the Baird Government has created a crisis in the electricity sector that will see thousands of NSW families thrown on the scrap heap and the reliability and safety of the electricity network put at risk.

“Today the union’s fears about mass sackings were confirmed by the actions of Baird Government.” Mr Butler said.

“We have been told that the government will be targeting between 2,200 and 4,600 power workers from across the state ahead of their privatisation plans.” Mr Butler said.

“We were called to a meeting at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend, to be told that the government will be writing to power workers across the state regarding redundancies.”

“The NSW Government is creating a crisis in the electricity sector that will result in the loss of thousands of highly skilled and good quality jobs from across the state with no community to be spared.” said Mr Butler.

“Not only will thousands of jobs be lost from metropolitan and regional areas but the safety and reliability of the electricity network – an asset that the people of NSW have just paid billions of dollars to upgrade – will be put at risk.”

Mr Butler said cutting 30 percent of the workforce would have a devastating impact on reliability and safety.

“You cannot cut 30 per cent of the workforce that build and maintain the electricity network without having an impact on reliability and safety including that of the public.”

“The Government will claim they are acting on a decision of the regulator but the simple fact is the government controls the regulator with every state energy minister having a seat at the table.”

“Today’s move by the NSW government is based on a draft ruling making it not only premature but also not in the community’s interest.”

Mr Butler said the situation had reached a crisis point. He called on Premier Mike Baird to step in and negotiate a resolution that would save jobs and guarantee the safety and reliability of the electricity system.

“The prospects of industrial action being taken have just increased but workers and their unions stand ready to resolve the government’s power crisis.”

“I have today written to the Premier seeking an urgent meeting to address our concerns and deliver on the promises he made in relation to job protections.”

Power workers employed by publicly owned electricity companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have been bargaining over a new employment agreement for six months with the aim of securing improved job security, no loss of conditions and a fair pay increase.

Steve Butler, Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union said today’s attack on power workers demonstrates that the NSW Government is more interested in cheap political point scoring than negotiating a fair outcome.

More than 8,000 Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy workers face uncertain times ahead of the Baird Governments electricity privatisation plans should they win the March election.

“Today the NSW Government has chosen to attack frontline power workers and their employment conditions in an attempt to score cheap political points rather than resolving the issue by offering a fair outcome including job protections.” said Mr Butler.

“Power workers are facing an uncertain future as a result of the Baird Government electricity privatisation plans with Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy saying that they intend to sack more than three thousand workers in the immediate future.”

“All these workers want is a fair and reasonable outcome with secure ongoing employment but right now the Government and management are being anything but fair and reasonable.” Mr Butler said.

“The cost of living is increasing at a rate of 2.5% per annum and we do not believe our claim of a 4% pay rise is unreasonable but we are also realistic and prepared to negotiate a fair outcome,” said Mr Butler.

“Power workers in NSW perform highly skilled and dangerous work often in treacherous conditions to make sure the public have a reliable and safe electricity supply,” Mr Butler said.

“Because of the dangerous and technical nature of the work power workers are required to maintain a high standard of qualification which includes passing a technical electrical safety rules exam every year.”

“For this reason workers who are required to pass annual electrical safety rules tests including linesmen, cable jointers and operators receive an allowance to help them maintain these necessary qualifications.” said Mr Butler.

“Most industries that have highly trained professionals that are expected to maintain a license or qualification receive some sort of allowance and the power industry is no different.”

“Other allowances such as dirt allowance, meal allowance and hazardous or offensive materials allowance are not paid to all workers and are only paid in rare circumstances when extreme working conditions exist.” Mr Butler said.

“When compared to other states including Victoria, power workers in NSW are paid comparable rates including allowances for specific and extraordinary circumstances.”

“Given the technical nature of the work and dangerous conditions that power workers face on a daily basis they receive modest pay and allowances.” Mr Butler said.

“To say power workers are overpaid is a joke particularly when some politicians receive tax payer funded allowances of more than $130,000 per year on top of their $249,000 salary not to mention their chauffer driven limousines.”

“Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy or the government could resolve this matter today but they would prefer to attack frontline workers that serve the public rain, hail or shine.” Mr Butler finished.

The Fair Work Commission today approved a ballot, which if supported, will allow workers at power companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy to take protected industrial in pursuit of reaching new workplace agreements including important job protections.

At a hearing on Friday the companies chose not to challenge or stop workers from seeking a ballot but simply requested that seven days’ notice be given prior to any action being taken should the ballot be successful.

Orders issued by the Fair Work Commission Monday night state that a postal ballot will be conducted which is expected to be concluded by mid-February. To be successful the ballot will need at least 50% of eligible workers to vote and of this at least 50% to support taking action.

The Fair Work Commission also stipulated that notice of seven working days must be given prior to any action occurring.

Unions representing workers at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have said that this action, if supported, is a last resort and designed to impact the companies, not the general public.

“While workers will vote on action – ranging from not using mobile phones after hours to refusing to disconnect customers that don’t pay their bill to work stoppages – this does not mean that all of this action will be taken it just means that they exist as options.” said Electrical Trades Union Secretary Steve Butler.

“Our action is designed to impact the companies in an effort to bring enough pressure to resolve the deadlock that we find ourselves in by delivering greater job security at a time when thousands of jobs are at risk.” Mr Butler said.

“Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have indicated that they intend to sack more than three thousand power workers, including apprentices, over the next year and the NSW Government is pushing ahead with electricity privatisation which is why we must achieve greater job security for workers in this industry.”

“We are not asking for an unreasonable outcome, all these workers want is a secure job that maintains existing conditions and provides a fair pay rise that stays ahead of inflation which is currently running at 2.5%” Mr Butler said.

“The Premier himself has said there will be no forced redundancies in the power industry as a result of his electricity privatisation plans so we are at odds as to why Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy are refusing to include the Premier’s guarantee in new workplace agreements.”

“The only thing we can conclude is that the Premier is telling the public and power workers one thing – that these jobs are safe – and telling management the opposite in order to maximise the value of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy in preparation for privatisation.”

“We are happy to discuss our concerns with the Government or management in order to reach an agreement, the ball is in their court and either could resolve this issue today.” said Mr Butler.

Unions are expecting Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy to overplay the impacts of any industrial action in an attempt to try and scare the public.

“Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy will no doubt over play possible impacts by saying that power supplies to hospitals and people on life support and other medical devices will be at risk but this is nothing more than scare mongering.” said Scott McNamara, Energy Manager with the United Services Union.

“Power workers and the unions will take a responsible approach to our action and aim to minimise any impact to infrastructure including hospitals, water and sewerage and people that rely on medical devices such as ventilators.” said Mr McNamara.

“Power workers perform dangerous work often in treacherous conditions to make sure the public is always looked after, all these workers want is a fair deal and for this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible.” Mr McNamara said.

Click Here to view FWC orders relating to Ausgrid

Click Here to view FWC orders relating to Endeavour Energy

Unions representing workers in the electricity industry have applied to Fair Work Australia for the right to take protected industrial action following several months of unsuccessful bargaining over new enterprise agreements.

The Electrical Trade Union (ETU) and the United Services Union (USU) represent the 9,000 electricity workers employed by Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy that maintain and repair the electricity network spanning Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, Central Coast, Sydney, Blue Mountains, parts of the Central West, Southern Highlands and the Illawarra as far south as Ulladulla.

Negotiations over workplace agreements hit a new low last month when workers rejected conditional offers made by Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy that would have seen cuts to workers conditions and take home pay.

The combined unions' have been extremely reasonable and are seeking basic improvements including improved job security in the face of the Liberals and Nationals electricity privatisation plans, no loss of existing conditions and a reasonable wage increase.

Workers are concerned that the conditional offers from Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy require the trading off of conditions and cuts to allowances which would see workers effectively receive a pay cut.

"The offers put forward by Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy last month require the trading off of conditions that would cut the take home pay of workers," said ETU secretary Steve Butler.

“The Baird Government wants to drive up the cost of electricity for consumers and drive down wages in order to maximise the amount of money the government will get from its electricity privatisation plans.” Mr Butler said.

“Workers are staring down the barrel of massive job losses after Ausgrid flagged the potential loss of 2,400 jobs while Endeavour Energy has indicated 700 jobs may be lost over the coming years.”

“Every worker in NSW deserves job security and we believe that this is not too much to ask for particularly when electricity workers are facing uncertain times in the face of the Liberals and Nationals electricity privatisation plans.” said Mr Butler.
 
“Electricity workers perform dangerous work often in treacherous conditions to make sure the people of NSW have a safe, reliable and continuous supply of electricity.

“All these workers want is a fair deal that maintains current conditions, delivers job security moving forward and provides a fair pay rise but management and the Baird Government prefer to attack these frontline workers who serve the people of NSW day in and day out," he said.

Fair Work Australia is being asked to approve protected industrial action which could include workplace bans on overtime and possible stoppages. A list of options will be presented to workers who will be asked to vote on the industrial action by secret ballot.

Action that may be taken includes the refusal to disconnect customers that fail to pay their bills, displaying and distributing information to members of the public about workers concerns, bans on some workplace practices including training and overtime and possible work stoppages.

"Electricity workers perform a dangerous job maintaining the electricity network in order to deliver an essential service to the people of NSW," said USU Energy Manager Scott McNamara.

"At the same time the Baird Government is doing everything it can to cut services to the bone, run public assets into the ground or privatise them and slash jobs across New South Wales, " said Mr McNamara.

“Power workers are not asking for a 27% pay rise and executive bonuses like some managers at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have received in recent years.

“All these workers want is job security, no loss of conditions and a fair pay rise that stays ahead of CPI which is currently running at 2.5%.

“Economic modelling commissioned by the unions has shown that a 4% increase would have minimal impact on electricity bills of $5.92 per year or just eleven cents per week.” Mr McNamara said.

The application for protected industrial action is being made to Fair Work Australia. If approved a ballot will be conducted meaning any action is unlikely to occur before mid-February.

CLICH HERE to read an ETU Ausgrid/Endeavour Energy negotiations fact sheet

Fifteen electrical apprentices with NSW Government-owned Endeavour Energy received phone calls one week before Christmas informing them that their jobs will be terminated later this month, according to the Electrical Trades Union.

A further 41 apprentices who recently completed their fourth year of training have been offered jobs on six month contracts, with no guarantee of future employment and no entitlement to redundancy pay if axed.

The ETU said electricity network companies traditionally trained workers in the specialist skills needed to maintain and upgrade the electricity network, and this was the first time in memory that graduating apprentices had been told they would have no job.

The apprentices are based at depots throughout Endeavour Energy’s network area, which provides electricity to millions of homes and businesses in Sydney’s west, the Illawarra, Southern Highlands, South Coast, Blue Mountains and Central West.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the apprentices were told to return to their local depots where they received private phone calls informing them that their employment would end in January.

“These workers are rightly devastated, after years of training they were told the week before Christmas that they would no longer have a job,” Mr Butler said.

“While some of these apprentices are young workers, just starting out in their careers, others are adult apprentices who had given up secure, full time employment to undertake this specialist training.

“Among those who have lost their jobs are former Endeavour Energy staff who were encouraged by management to take up an apprenticeship as the company sought to meet targets of peak resources.”

The union has lodged a formal dispute with the company, alleging that the failure to consult over the selection criteria that decided which apprentices were offered jobs was a breach of the company’s enterprise agreement.

The ETU is also challenging the decision to deny the workers redundancy payments, including those with years of prior employment with the company, along with the failure to provide the workers with a Cable Jointers Certificate, in addition to their Linesman Certificate, despite the workers being led to believe their training would qualify them for both.

Mr Butler said Ausgrid, the largest network company, has also told 130 apprentices they will only be placed on six month contracts, rather than given full time employment.

“This use of six month contracts is unprecedented, and leads many workers to fear that the Liberal National Government simply wants to get past the election in March before terminating more staff,” he said.

“Not only will these workers also miss out on a redundancy, their short term contracts would exclude them from the employment protections that Premier Mike Baird has claimed will be provided to existing power workers.

“We fear the treatment of these apprentices will deter other keen young workers from undergoing this training, leading to future shortages of the specialist skills needed to operate the electricity network.”

The Electrical Trades Union is appalled at attempts by former Ausgrid CEO George Maltabarow to blame the wages and conditions of hard working power industry employees for high power prices, describing his claims as baseless smears.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said it was extremely hypocritical for Mr Maltabarow to attack the income of power workers given he was previously the highest paid public servant in NSW, on a salary of more than $882,000, while front line Ausgrid workers were paid close to the average Australian wage.

“In 2009, George Maltabarow received a performance bonus of $135,450 on top of his generous salary,” Mr Butler said.

“Then, in 2010, he received a 14 per cent pay rise, taking his salary to $882,688.

“During that same time period, front line power workers — the people who have been out every day restoring electricity as Sydney has been lashed by wild weather — received no bonus and a modest 4 per cent pay rise.

“Only last month, the NSW Auditor General found that NSW power workers had delivered cost savings of $3 billion over the past three years through improved efficiency.”

Mr Butler said increases to power bills during the past five years were the result of increased investment in the network, not the small pay increases awarded to highly skilled power workers.

“During the last pricing determination delivered by the Australian Energy Regulator in 2009, Mr Maltabarow fought the regulator tooth and nail to get approval to spend $8 billion on upgrades,” he said.

“It was this investment that was the main driver of price increases, not the wages and conditions of hard working and committed power workers.

“I recall a meeting where Mr Maltabarow actually thought it was clever that he and his executive team were able to get so much money out of the federal regulator at the expense of NSW families.”

The union said Mr Maltabarow’s claim that the ETU restricted the use of contractors was also untrue.

“It was actually at the request of George Maltabarow that a memorandum of understanding was introduced around the use of contractors in order to deliver the huge amount of work required off the back of his $8 billion network upgrade demand,” Mr Butler said.

“Chief executives come and go, but the one thing they seem to have in common is the ability to find someone else to blame for their failures.

“On the other hand, the front line power workers who perform dangerous and highly skilled work, such as during the recent storms experiences across Sydney, are always there, getting on with the job at hand.”

 

Facts about Ausgrid workers and employment conditions:

Claim: Ausgrid workers get extensive private use of company motor vehicles.

Reality: Ausgrid workers use company vehicles in their day to day work. Currently three frontline workers at Ausgrid have limited private use of company motor vehicles, no other employees are entitled to private use of company motor vehicles.

Approximately 300 staff including Emergency Services Operators and District Operators – frontline workers who respond to emergency incidents such as motor vehicle accidents, building fires and wires down – currently have access to company vehicles when driving to and from work but no private use.

All other employees use company vehicles stored at depots for work purposes during work hours only.

Claim: Ausgrid workers get 26% superannuation.

Reality: Ausgrid workers, like all workers, receive the current 9.5% Superannuation Guarantee Levy (SGL).

Between 2006 and 2012 Ausgrid workers voted to accept lower wage increases in return for an additional 1% per year in superannuation totaling 6% in order to achieve what former Treasurer Paul Keating said was an acceptable level of superannuation as people continue to live longer. As a result of these past trade off’s the majority of Ausgrid workers currently receive 15% superannuation.

Approximately 1,314 Ausgrid workers currently contribute between 1% and 9% of their own money into superannuation on top of the 9.5% SGL and 6% past tradeoffs to receive up to 26% superannuation.

Claim: Ausgrid workers receive generous Long Service Leave entitlements.

Reality: Ausgrid employees accrue long service leave at the rate of 13 weeks for ten years of service which is similar to many other employers across Australia.

Employees who show a long term commitment to serving the people of NSW currently accrue long service leave at a rate 1.7 weeks for the period between 10 years of service and 15 years of service which is the statutory accrual rate in NSW, while employee’s with more than 15 years of service currently accrue 2.7 weeks per year for each year of service over and above 15 years.

These Long Service Leave arrangements have existed in the industry for more than 30 years to encourage the retention of highly skilled trade’s people in a highly technical industry.

These long service leave entitlements do not apply to all workers currently employed by Ausgrid as many workers have less than ten years’ service or leave prior to their ten year anniversary.

Claim: Ausgrid workers get paid overtime to travel to and from work.

Reality: Ausgrid workers travel to and from work in their own time and are not paid to drive to and from their ordinary place of work.

As with many other workplaces should an employee be called in to work after hours by management or should an employee be directed by management to work from a location other than that employees ordinary place of work that employee is paid a small allowance to cover any costs incurred.

This is not a regular occurrence and is always initiated by a management decision. 

Claim: Ausgrid Workers receive 4 hours pay for overtime even if they don’t work 4 hours.

Reality: Ausgrid workers who are called out for afterhours work at short notice and who are not required to be available for afterhours work as a part of their roster in some cases receive four hours pay for call out work. It remains a decision of management to call out workers for afterhours work, is generally only for high priority, safety or emergency situations and is not a regular occurrence.

Ausgrid workers are committed and dedicated to serving the public and as a result many workers sacrifice time with their families to respond at short notice and outside their normal rostered hours to dangerous situations as requested by management.

Management have agreed and signed off on workplace agreements that provide 4 hours pay to workers in such circumstances as fair compensation for responding to irregular and high priority situations.

Claim: Ausgrid workers who accept a job at a lower rate continue to get paid a higher salary.

Reality: Ausgrid workers who are displaced from their position by a decision of management, including restructures and are forced to accept a lower paying role currently receive salary maintenance for a period of one year. Salary maintenance results directly from management decisions and is not guaranteed beyond one year.

Ausgrid workers who initiate a transfer to a lower paying job do not receive salary maintenance.

Claim: NSW Power workers are paid too much and have better conditions than power workers in Victoria.

Reality: Power workers in NSW and Victoria have similar employment conditions and rates of pay.

Rates of pay for full time adult workers in NSW range from $44,774 for entry level positions to $143,572 for highly skilled and highly experienced supervisory/management positions. In Victoria entry level rates are $47,290 ranging up to highly skilled supervisory and management positions of $132,626.

The overwhelming majority of frontline power workers earn close to the Australian average adult wage of $78,878. As in all businesses some people earn more than this depending on their skill, experience and responsibilities while others earn less.

Power industry workers in Victoria received three wage increases between December 2011 and August 2013 of 4.5%, 4.5% and 5% while NSW power workers received two pay increases of 2.7% each in 2012 and 2013.

While individual elements of employment agreements may differ the take home pay of power industry workers in NSW and Victoria are comparable. There has been a concerted campaign by the NSW Government, Networks NSW and the NSW power companies to “cherry pick” employment conditions in an attempt to smear power industry workers.

Power industry unions are warning NSW consumers to expect increased blackouts, reduced safety, and massive cuts to jobs and training following the federal energy regulator’s proposal to slash electricity network spending by up to 60 per cent.

The Electrical Trades Union and United Services Union, which represent the majority of the 12,000 Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential employees across NSW, said the Australian Energy Regulator’s draft determination would impose drastic cuts to the money available to run, maintain and upgrade electricity infrastructure during the next five years.

Off the back of major infrastructure upgrades during the past five years, which have increased reliability and capacity in times of peak demand, the network businesses had sought to reduce expenditure by 40 per cent.

The AER rejected that proposal, instead delivering cuts of up to 60 per cent, which if implemented will result in more than 4,600 job losses across the state.

The unions said these cuts would come on top of 2,300 jobs already lost at Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential since July 2012, almost halving the size of the workforce in just a few years.

“Massive expenditure cuts of this scale, introduced overnight, will have a massive impact on the reliability of electricity services and the safety of workers and members of the public,” ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said.

“Blackouts will be more likely on the hottest and coldest days, as power demand surges, reconnections will be slower following natural disasters, bushfire risks are likely to increase, and the safety of workers and the public will be put at risk.

“It will also see thousands of jobs cut, many in rural and regional NSW, as well as all but eliminate any intake of apprentices across the sector over the next five years.

“For the federal regulator to impose cuts so far in excess of what the electricity network businesses themselves recommended — without any risk assessment on the impact to safety and reliability — reveals a complete failure to consider the public interest.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said the AER report had made no provision for redundancies, requiring job reductions that were unsafe and illegal under current enterprise agreements.

“The energy regulator has completely failed to examine how cuts of this magnitude would take place, with no provision for the redundancy payments that would be needed for thousands of workers, and no examination of how it will impact safety,” he said.

“These job cuts are not only illegal under the current enterprise agreements, but they would breach the Federal Government’s own Fair Work Act.

“These cuts claim to be modelled on practices in Victoria and South Australia, but the AER fails to acknowledge the fact that both these states suffer from load shedding — where power has to be cut to consumers because the network can’t meet demand.

“In Victoria, more than 100 lives were lost on Black Saturday in bushfires a royal commission found were sparked by poor maintenance on the electricity network.

“The AER would see a reduction of $460 million in the next four years in the money spent on managing vegetation around power lines to reduce bushfire risk.

“The last thing we want is for the people of NSW to end up with poorer services and reduced safety because the Federal Government’s energy regulator imposes unsustainable cuts to our electricity network.”

The unions said that, like the network businesses, they would be making submission to the draft determination opposing the scale of the cuts.

“The AER have got it wrong by not taking into consideration legal obligations and true operational requirements of the network businesses,” Mr Butler said.

“We believe in a publicly owned electricity network that is efficient, safe and affordable.

“A slash and burn approach to spending will deliver the opposite outcome, which would be bad for consumers throughout the state.”

A potentially fatal electrical safety breach during construction of the International Convention Centre at Darling Harbour has led to more than 40 electricians refusing to carry out non-emergency work.

All electrical workers on the site — employees of major electrical contractors Stowe Australia and Fredon — yesterday voted to halt work following a meeting of the safety committee, where they indicated they had no confidence in the ability of builder Lend Lease to provide a safe workplace.

The decision follows an incident where an electrician had “locked out” a switchboard, ensuring a circuit remained off while electrical work was carried out.

When the electricians finished work for the day, a Lend Lease foreman allegedly ordered another worker to use an angle grinder to cut off the padlock and restore power to the circuit. The following morning an electrical worker was just moments from being electrocuted when he recommenced work on what he believed was still a de-energised circuit.

The Electrical Trades Union said the incident, a clear breach of basic safety precautions, had almost led to the fourth fatality on a Sydney construction site in less than a fortnight.

“It is an industry standard that electricians use special padlocks to ‘lock out’ switch boards and other electrical equipment, preventing power from being restored to circuits that are currently being worked on,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“These large padlocks include a written warning explaining that the circuit is locked out, with only the electrician that installed the lock authorised to remove it, for obvious safety reasons.

“It is extremely concerning that a Lend Lease foreman would deliberately breach this procedure by ordering a worker to cut the lock off and restore power, with no warning to electricians that this had taken place.”

Mr Butler said workers were also concerned that it had taken almost a week for Lend Lease to report the incident to WorkCover NSW, and that the safety regulator had said it would not be investigating the breach.

“The union is demanding that both Lend Lease and WorkCover NSW conduct a thorough investigation of how basic safety practices were suspended, putting lives at risk,” he said.

“Lend Lease is currently responsible for several major construction sites across Sydney, including Barangaroo, with workers complaining of systemic safety issues across these projects.

“In this case, an essential and long-standing safety practice — an electrician ‘locking out’ a circuit that was currently undergoing work — was completely disregarded, putting lives at risk.

As a result electrical workers have been left with no choice but to halt work and only respond to emergencies until Lend Lease can ensure their safety.

“It really shouldn’t be too much to ask that basic safety practices be undertaken to ensure every worker is able to return home safely to their family each night.”


The Electrical Trades Union has issued a health warning to outdoor workers across NSW due to the serious risk of heat related illnesses as extreme temperatures look set to continue for several days.

The notice reminds workers of the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and highlights the health and safety requirements for managing work in high temperatures.

These requirements include a mandatory stop to work when temperatures exceed 38 degrees, with a risk assessment then undertaken to determine if it is safe to continue work. Such work should be limited to fault repairs, emergency situations, or the finalisation of current work, with no new work commencing.

For temperatures between 28 degrees and 38 degrees, a minimum 15 minute break per hour worked and regular intakes of cool water are required to manage heat risks.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said extreme temperatures, particularly over a sustained number of days, risk overloading the natural cooling mechanisms of the human body.

“Extreme heat can cause a range of health problems, from the uncomfortable to the potentially deadly,” Mr Butler said.

“With sustained high temperatures over several days, exceeding 40 degrees in some areas, it is essential that people working outdoors are aware of appropriate measures to manage the heat.

“Our union has produced a detailed policy for working in heat, while individual employers should have a heat management policy in place and WorkCover NSW also has a code of practice for managing hot work environments.”

The union said possible health effects faced by outdoor workers include heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and in the most extreme cases heat stroke.

“Heat exhaustion is related to a rapid loss of body fluids, with those workers unable to have enough to drink or those suffering from illnesses such as diarrhoea at particular risk,” Mr Butler said.

“It is essential to keep an eye out for workmates, with warning signs including pale and clammy skin, thirst, fatigue, tiredness, nausea and vomiting.

“Heat stroke, which can be potentially fatal, is more likely when high temperatures are combined with high humidity, with symptoms including flushing, hot dry skin, headache, drowsiness, convulsions, delirium and even collapse.

“Workers and their employers should take appropriate action to manage the risk, with regular breaks, the consumption of cool water, and an immediate halt to work when the mercury is above 38.

“When assessing the risk it is also essential to be aware that thermal radiation from the sun, and high humidity, both exacerbate the risk posed by hot temperatures.

The NSW Auditor-General’s report on the publicly owned electricity businesses, released to parliament today, has highlighted that NSW would be $1.3 billion a year worse off if the Liberals and Nationals get their way with electricity privatisation.

The report reported that total revenue to the NSW Treasury, in the form of dividends and tax equivalents, was a bumper $1.7 billion last financial year.

Stop the Sell Off campaign director Adam Kerslake said that had Premier Mike Baird’s privatisation of half the electricity been in place, it would have meant the loss of $436 million in dividends, and $829 million in income tax equivalents.

“Following Mike Baird’s privatisation, the people of NSW will no longer receive this income, leaving a massive $1.3 billion-a-year hole in the State’s finances,” Mr Kerslake said.

Mr Kerslake said the Auditor-General’s report had also undermined efforts by Treasurer Andrew Constance to blame workers for power price rises, revealing that efficiency improvements delivered by those electricity workers had saved consumers $3 billion over the last three years.

“Power workers have been delivering major efficiency improvements across the network, reducing costs while at the same time cutting the number of customers who experienced blackouts,” he said.

“The Auditor General found that increased service reliability was also the direct result of a $15.2 billion network upgrade carried out since 2009.”

The report did come under fire for relying on inaccurate and out-of-date data — supplied by corporate advisor EY to the NSW Treasury — to argue that NSW electricity users pay the highest price for power.

“On consumer pricing, the Auditor-General has got it wrong, but only because they have relied on inaccurate and outdated data from a politically motivated report produced for the NSW Treasury,” Mr Kerslake said.

“That report compares NSW prices from 2012 to South Australian prices from 2010 to conclude that NSW electricity bills are the highest in the country.

“On the other hand, the latest report from the Federal Government’s Australian Energy Regulator, based on data from 2013, found South Australia has the highest average electricity bill — at $2,335 per annum — while the average NSW consumer pays $1,960.

“Despite his best efforts to drive his ideological privatisation agenda, the numbers simply don’t add up for Premier Mike Baird.”