ETU Media Releases

Workers from publicly-owned electricity network companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy will this afternoon stop work for four hours as part of their fight to have protections against forced redundancy implemented ahead of the NSW Government’s planned power sale.

The industrial action will involve Endeavour Energy employees from Western Sydney, the Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Central West, Southern Highlands, and South Coast, along with Ausgrid workers from parts of Sydney and the Hunter.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity workers employed by Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, said it was now more than three months since workplace agreements at both companies expired.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said workers were simply fighting for basic job protections that would prevent a future private owner from forcing out staff against their will.

“The key issue here are job protections and the prevention of forced redundancies, which are a major concern for workers given Mike Baird’s plan to sell a majority stake in both these companies to the private sector,” Mr Butler said.

“Workers also face the looming decision of the Australian Energy Regulator, whose draft pricing determination — if imposed — would see 2,400 jobs cut at Ausgrid and 700 at Endeavour Energy.

“These workers are the people who tirelessly operate, maintain and repair the electricity network, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain, hail or shine.

“All they are asking for is a written commitment that these companies won’t force thousands of workers out of a job once they are sold off to private owners.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said workers had already made a range of concessions to try and resolve the dispute, but the NSW Government was refusing to budge.

“Last month workers agreed to a reduced pay claim, complying with the NSW government wages policy of 2.5 per cent,” Mr McNamara said.

“All they asked for in return was the job security provisions that Mike Baird has claimed in the past would be part of his privatisation plan.”

The unions said the industrial action was not expected to impact on the public, with minimum staffing coverage provided during the stoppage, and key positions such as control room staff and emergency services officers not taking part.

“Industrial action is always a last resort, especially when it involves an essential service, but power workers have been left no choice,” Mr McNamara said.

“The refusal to agree to job security provisions by management at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, and the NSW Government, has forced workers at both companies to escalate this dispute to try and force a resolution.

“Mike Baird could resolve this today — halting this industrial action and any future stoppages — by simply delivering the job security provisions he has promised in the past.”

Today’s industrial action will occur across the entire Endeavour Energy service area, along with Ausgrid depots on the Northern Beaches, Eastern Suburbs and Newcastle.

Ausgrid workers in Southern Sydney, the CBD, Central Coast and Singleton will hold a four hour stoppage tomorrow.

Ausgrid staff in the Inner West, Northern Sydney, Upper Hunter, Maitland and Cessnock will  take industrial action for four hours on Wednesday 8 April.

BACKGROUND:

Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy began enterprise agreement (EA) negotiations with employees last September and made conditional offers in November which were rejected by delegates in December 2014. Both EAs expired in December.

Ausgrid put a wages offer of between 0 per cent and 2.5 per cent in return for significant trade-offs including cuts to the Electrical Licence Allowance, cuts to long service leave, reduction to overtime, call out and travel time payments and removal of salary maintenance provisions.

An additional offer of 0.4 per cent was made in return for further deep cuts to a range of other allowances and superannuation payments.

A similar offer was made by Endeavour Energy.

The trade-offs required by the two company’s amount to more than the wage offer which is conditional on a number of unknowns and could be 0 per cent.

Acceptance of the company’s offer would result in a significant loss to employees in real terms even if the full wage offer was confirmed.

Employees last month voted to take protected industrial action.

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance has been accused of inappropriate political intervention after the Crown Solicitor’s Office was instructed to seek to terminate industrial action being planned by power workers in their fight for job security protections ahead of the privatisation of the electricity network.

The Crown Solicitor will today argue before the Fair Work Commission that the lawfully protected industrial action, scheduled to occur next Tuesday, should be terminated or indefinitely suspended.

In their application, made on behalf of Mr Constance in his role as Minister for Industrial Relations, the Crown Solicitor has claimed the four hour work stoppage: “would threaten to puts (sic) physical or mental state of vulnerable persons in the NSW community at risk of material detriment”.

The Electrical Trades Union, which has already offered commitments to both Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy that members will respond to all emergency incidents during the stoppage, accused the NSW Government of attempting to silence workers who were simply fighting to secure their jobs ahead of the planned sale of electricity network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid.

“This intervention has nothing to do with public safety, and everything to do with Andrew Constance and the Liberals and Nationals trying to silence opposition to their unpopular privatisation plans that will decimate local jobs, cut services, and lead to higher prices,” Mr Butler said.

“The ETU has already informed Ausgrid and Endeavour that our members will respond to any power outages, interruptions to supply, or emergency situations that occur during the industrial action.

“The claim by the Treasurer that this work stoppage must be cancelled to ensure public safety is absolutely ridiculous, and is an inappropriate political intervention by a desperate government seeking to silence criticism.”

The union said electricity workers were holding the work stoppage after Networks NSW rejected their offer to accept a reduced pay increase and roll over existing employment agreements which include job protections such as no forced redundancies.

“Mike Baird and Andrew Constance last year gave a commitment that job protections would be provided, but they are now instructing their lawyers to fight power workers using taxpayers’ money to essentially resolve a political problem,” Mr Butler said.

“Whether or not this industrial action is allowed to continue, the fact remains that under the NSW Liberals and Nationals electricity privatisation plans, thousands of highly-skilled, good quality local jobs will be lost.

“Rather than waste taxpayers’ money on lawyers, the Treasurer could resolve this dispute today by accepting our reduced pay offer and agreeing to retain existing job protections.

“We will vigorously argue for our right to take this lawful action in pursuit of a fair outcome that delivers job security for our members in the face of the Liberals and Nationals electricity privatisation plan.”

Electricity workers have this afternoon given seven working days notice of their intention to hold a four hour work stoppage after management at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy failed to respond to an offer to accept a reduced pay rise in return for maintaining job security.

The notice, lodged with Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, notifies that industrial action will take place on Tuesday, March 3, with staff stopping work for a four hour period.

The Electrical Trades Union said workers had been forced to escalate the dispute by lodging formal notice of industrial action after management at the publicly owned power companies failed to respond to an offer to accept a 2.5 per cent a year pay increase, in line with the NSW public sector wages policy, in return for maintaining job security ahead of the Liberals and Nationals planned electricity privatisation.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the industrial action would involve thousands of workers who operate and maintain the electricity network in Sydney, the Hunter Valley, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Wollongong, the Illawarra, Blue Mountains and parts of the Central West.

“We have said all along that industrial action is an absolute last resort,” Mr Butler said.

“Power workers have been given no choice but to take this action after the NSW Government and management at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy refused to agree to maintaining protections that prevent forced redundancies.

“On Tuesday, workers offered to accept a 2.5 per cent pay rise in return for retaining existing job protection provisions in a final attempt to avert industrial action, but their gesture of goodwill has been ignored.

“Premier Mike Baird previously promised that the sale of the electricity network wouldn’t see jobs and services slashed, yet his government is refusing to support an agreement that will protect them.”

Mr Butler said the union was determined to ensure the impact of the industrial action was focused on management, and not consumers, with power workers committing to respond to blackouts and other supply interruptions during the work stoppage.

“This action is about ensuring the government and power companies provide job security ahead of the Baird Government’s electricity network privatisation, not inconveniencing the general public,” he said.

“Our members will respond to all supply interruptions on this occasion, regardless of circumstances, to ensure consumers are not caught in the middle of this escalating dispute.”

Power workers employed by Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have offered to accept a 2.5 per cent pay rise in return for retaining existing job protection provisions in a final attempt to avert industrial action at the NSW Government owned electricity network companies.

The Electrical Trades Union yesterday wrote to management outlining a compromise position in a final attempt to resolve the dispute following an overwhelming vote by workers at both companies in support of industrial action.

The union’s proposal includes pay rises of 2.5 per cent a year over two years. It also involves a roll over of the existing enterprise agreements, which expired in December, maintaining existing conditions and job protections, including a provision for no forced redundancies.

The agreements cover thousands of workers who operate and maintain the electricity network in Sydney, the Hunter Valley, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Wollongong, the Illawarra, Blue Mountains and parts of the Central West.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the primary concern for power workers had always been job security in light of the Liberal and National plans to privatise the electricity network, likely seeing it taken over by foreign owners.
“This offer has been made in good faith in a final attempt to resolve the impasse and avoid industrial action,” Mr Butler said.

"The unions revised claim of 2.5 per cent per year means power workers would be treated the same as workers elsewhere in the public sector, delivering necessary job protections in the face of the government’s privatisation plans.

“It will also roll over the current workplace agreement, which management agreed to just two years ago, ensuring existing rights and protections are maintained.”

Mr Butler said the ball was now in Premier Mike Baird’s court.

“If the NSW Government are not prepared to agree to a proposal that matches their wage policy while also protecting local jobs, the public can only conclude that they have plans to sack thousands of staff as part of the Liberal and National Party’s electricity privatisation plans,” he said.

“Many power workers fear that without strong job protections, Mike Baird will look to slash a large part of the workforce to fatten up profits and increase the amount of money the government can get from their privatisation plan.

“This is the choice for Mike Baird and his government: will you put thousand of jobs at risk in pursuit of privatisation, or will you stand up to protect local jobs?

“When I met with the Premier last year he said that he would guarantee jobs. This is his chance to deliver.”
The union said that workers had shown once again their desire to settle the negotiations in good faith, providing a final opportunity for the NSW Government to reach a fair agreement that would also avert possible industrial action.
“Power workers are absolutely genuine in their desire to settle these negotiations,” Mr Butler said.

“If Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and the government choose not to accept this fair offer then we will know that they are more interested in having a fight with workers in the lead up to the state election than in providing certainty for the people of NSW.”

Workers at electricity network companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have overwhelmingly voted in support of industrial action, including possible work stoppages and strikes, as they fight for improved job security provisions in light of Premier Mike Baird’s privatisation plans.
In a postal ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, 95.8 per cent of Ausgrid staff and 86.4 per cent of Endeavour staff voted in support of work stoppages.
The vote allows workers at both businesses to take a range of lawful industrial actions, including strikes, bans on non-emergency call outs and refusals to disconnect customers who don’t pay bills. The Fair Work Commission requires seven days notice be given before each specific form of industrial action occurs.
Workers were also asked to vote on various forms of industrial action that they would support taking.
At Ausgrid, 87.5 per cent support strikes — including indefinite stoppages — while 96.1 per cent endorsed work bans, 96.1 per cent agreed to changed work practices, and 94.8 per cent supported the distribution of union campaign material.
At Endeavour, 76.3 per cent voted for strikes, 90.6 per cent supported work bans, 91 per cent agreed to changed work practices, and 90.4. per cent agreed to distribute union campaign material.
The companies operate and maintain the electricity network in Sydney, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Central Coast, Blue Mountains, parts of the Central West, Southern Highlands and the Illawarra.
The Electrical Trades Union said negotiations had soured after Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy asked staff to accept cuts to working conditions and entitlements that would see reductions to their take home pay.
“Workers are fighting for improved job security provisions in light of the proposed privatisations of both businesses, the protection of existing conditions, and a modest wage increase that keeps them on par with comparable companies interstate,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.
“At a time when the NSW Government is looking to sell the businesses to foreign owners, and have flagged a total of 4,600 job losses across the electricity network, it is understandable that workers are determined to fight for a fair outcome.”
Mr Butler said that while the vote meant workers could now lawfully take a range of actions, it was still possible to avert industrial action.
“On January 23 I wrote to Premier Mike Baird asking for an urgent meeting to resolve this dispute,” he said.
“To this day there has been no response to that offer.
“If the NSW Government refuses to sit down to discuss the issues, what option is left for workers but to escalate the matter?
“There is still time to avert potential industrial action, but it requires a genuine commitment to resolving the core issues faced by power workers.
“We simply can’t accept a situation where workers are left with inadequate job protections, the loss of conditions, or cuts to their wages and entitlements.
“It seems the Liberal and National parties want to drive down wages and conditions at these businesses to maximise the amount of money they will receive from their electricity privatisation plans.”

If NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance is serious about averting potential industrial action at electricity network companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, he should call Mike Baird and ask why the Premier has failed to respond to a union request for a meeting to resolve the dispute.

Unions have released correspondence (below), sent to the Premier on January 23, seeking an urgent meeting to resolve the brewing dispute following revelations that Networks NSW was planning to make 4,600 power industry workers redundant, while Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy were asking staff to accept cuts to working conditions and take home pay.

The letter outlined the key sticking points in negotiations around job security and the protection of conditions, as well as outlining an initial wage claim of 4 per cent per annum, over two years. It also expressed a desire to reach settlement and avoid industrial action.

The release of the letter follows a bizarre, fact-free attack by Andrew Constance today, during which he called on power workers to call off industrial action — despite none taking place.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union represent the 9,000 electricity workers employed by Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy to maintain and repair the electricity network in Sydney, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Central Coast, Blue Mountains, parts of the Central West, Southern Highlands and the Illawarra.

The unions are currently awaiting the result of a postal ballot, conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, in which at least 50 per cent of eligible workers must vote, with the majority in favour of industrial action, before any strikes may occur. Even then, the Fair Work Commission requires that seven days notice be given before any industrial action occurs.

“Industrial action is always a last resort,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“But when workers are offered an agreement that will cut their working conditions and take home pay, and the NSW Government refuses to sit down to discuss the issues, then what choice is left?

“The Premier has had more than two weeks to respond to our urgent request, yet there has been nothing but silence from the government until today’s bizarre rant from the Treasurer.

“Regardless of the outcome of the current ballot, we remain prepared to negotiate an outcome, but that requires genuine discussion, not public attacks.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said even if industrial action took place, it would be designed to impact Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, not the general public.

“Workers have been asked to vote on a whole variety of industrial actions, including bans on using mobile phones after hours, refusing to disconnect customers that don’t pay bills, through to potential work stoppages,” he said.

“The outcome of the ballot doesn’t guarantee that these actions will be taken, it just means they exist as options.

“Our requests have been extremely reasonable, and include basic elements such as improved job security in the face of the Liberals and Nationals electricity privatisation plans, no loss of existing conditions and a reasonable wage increase.

“On the other hand, the NSW 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.”

Click here to read a copy of the correspondence to Premier Mike Baird.

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