ETU Media Releases

The Electrical Trades Union is today appearing before the Fair Work Commission to argue against the introduction of policies by publicly-owned power companies Ausgrid and Essential Energy that would allow them to forcibly sack 2,500 workers across NSW.

FWC president Justice Ian Ross, who is presiding over the hearing, will determine whether the ETU and other unions have grounds to take the matter to the Federal Court to seek a binding interpretation of key components of the current enterprise agreement.

The union said the outcome of today’s hearing would determine the course of subsequent legal action, but that it was just one of many steps that are being taken to try to stop what will be devastating job cuts across NSW.

ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said the union met with Premier Mike Baird in June, as well as presenting a range of alternative options to management at both of the companies, in an attempt to minimise the need for any job losses.

“Power sector unions seem to be the only people interested in future-proofing our electricity network by retaining specialised, highly-skilled electricity jobs across NSW,” Mr Betts said.

“The ETU has presented a range of alternatives to the proposed mass sackings, including job sharing, roster changes, voluntary redundancy mix and match programs and expansion of the businesses into ‘non-regulated’ revenue areas.

“To date, management have rejected the proposals put forward by the unions while the Premier told representatives from the ETU in June that the Government would not expand these businesses in order to keep people employed.

“We believe it is every member of parliament’s responsibility to ensure these public companies at least consider every available option to minimise jobs losses, particularly in regional NSW.

“It is disappointing that we have been forced to take costly legal action in order to protect jobs while management, presumably supported by the government, argue in favour of sacking 2,500 workers.”

The Electrical Trades Union has today written to regional National and Liberal Party MPs on behalf of Essential Energy employees living and working across regional NSW, urging MPs to support a union plan to save dozens of local jobs at the publicly-owned electricity network company.

The proposal includes roster changes, job sharing, expansion of non-regulated work, and a mix and match voluntary redundancy program — all of which would result in a reduction to planned job cuts.

In the letter, ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts called on MPs to make representations to Premier Mike Baird and National Party leader Troy Grant on behalf of local Essential Energy workers, as well as raising the plan in the next National and Liberal party room meetings.

The correspondence also outlined how TransGrid, which operates the regionally based high voltage transmission network, had implemented similar proposals, resulting in no jobs being lost despite the Australian Energy Regulator imposing a 25 per cent reduction in the company’s regulated revenue.

The union proposal comes as Essential Energy begins the first phase of job cuts, which will eventually result in 1395 full time positions being lost throughout rural and regional NSW.

Mr Betts said that the first phase of job cuts, commencing this month, would be made up of 454 front-line field workers, 121 office staff, 91 previously redeployed employees, and 34 managers. A further 695 jobs would then be cut later in a second phase at the end of the year.

“The union is extremely concerned by how these job cuts will impact regional NSW communities, with reductions to network safety and reliability along with reduced employment opportunities for future generations,” Mr Betts said.

“We are also extremely concerned about the impact on existing employees and their families across NSW, with these job losses likely to result in serious financial hardship and in some cases forcing families to leave their local communities in the search for employment.”

Mr Betts said the union was also challenging claims by Essential Energy management that the job cuts had been imposed by the Australian Energy Regulator.

“TransGrid, which operates the high voltage transmission network across NSW, suffered a 25 per cent reduction in their regulated revenue under the AER determination, yet they are not laying off a single employee as a result,” Mr Betts said.

“Rather than taking Essential Energy’s simplistic approach of axing more than a third of their workforce, TransGrid embraced similar proposals to those that the union is suggesting, resulting in a better outcome for workers, the company, and consumers.

“We are urging All MPs to champion similar solutions so that the community can be protected from the irreparable damage that will be caused by these wholesale job cuts.”

The union also highlighted a statement by Australian Energy Regulator CEO Michelle Groves who said in response to questions regarding the job cuts: “We have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses. We have approved total revenues for the businesses to recover from their customers.”

Mr Betts said it was Essential Energy management who had attempted to connect the AER outcome with job numbers.

“Opportunities exist for Essential Energy to raise additional ‘non-regulated’ revenue, which if implemented, would minimise regional job losses,” he said.

“The union has also proposed a number of options, including roster changes and job sharing, which would also save jobs.

“For reasons known only to Essential Energy management and Networks NSW, the company is choosing to sack workers rather than look at alternatives that would protect regional jobs.”

Publicly-owned regional electricity network operator Essential Energy has revealed the location of its first tranche of staffing cuts, with 27 full time positions axed in the South Eastern region through a “spill and fill” process that requires staff to reapply for their existing jobs.

Essential Energy announced earlier in the year that they plan to axe 1,395 jobs across NSW.

The company informed staff that a final meeting of the Redundancy Consultative Committee will take place on Tuesday 8 September, before individual employees impacted by the cuts are notified on September 9 and 10.

Depots that will lose staff include: Bega, Bombala, Cooma, Jindabyne, Bathurst, Blayney, Canowindra, Molong, Oberon, Orange, Briadwood, Crookwell, Goulburn, Moruya, Boorowa, Gundagai, Harden, Queanbeyan, Tumbarunba, Tumut, and Yass.

Workers have been informed that they will need to reapply for their jobs through a process involving: “a basic psychometric assessment of cognitive capability, personality, motivations and interests; a selection criteria assessment; an interview; and, if required, a functional assessment.”

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, said there were alternatives to the deep job cuts.

“Unions have put forward a range of options, including for job sharing arrangements and other efficiencies, that could drastically reduce the number of local people who will lose their jobs,” ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said.

“Allowed to continue, these huge staffing reductions will result in the loss of specialist skills and experiences from these communities resulting in chronic future skills shortages not to mention network reliability and safety concerns.

“Rather than taking a simplistic approach of cutting jobs, unions have put forward genuine alternatives that can keep people in work, keep skills in regional NSW, and deliver savings for consumers.

“What the community need to know is that these 27 local jobs are just the beginning and that there will be much more pain to come.

“Essential Energy management have told unions that they already know the names and location for the remaining twelve hundred job losses that are yet to be announced and we believe up to 300 of these will come from the south and central west of the state.”

The ETU will be writing to Members of Parliament with a plan to minimize regional job losses over the coming days.

Publicly-owned regional electricity network operator Essential Energy has revealed the location of its first tranche of staffing cuts, with 58 full time positions axed in the north of NSW through a “spill and fill” process that requires staff to reapply for their existing jobs.

Essential Energy announced earlier in the year that they plan to axe 1,395 jobs across NSW.

The company informed staff that a final meeting of the Redundancy Consultative Committee will take place on Tuesday 8 September, before individual employees impacted by the cuts are notified on September 9 and 10.

Depots that will lose staff include: Coonabarabran, Dunedoo, Gilgandra, Gunnedah, Quirindi, Warren, Broken Hill, Menindi, Wilcannia, Dubbo, Mudgee, Narromine, Wellington, Coonamble, Moree, Narrabri, Walgett, Bourke, Cobar, Nyngan, Glenn Innes, Goondiwindi, Inverell, Tenterfield, Texas, Warialda, Armidale, Barraba, Guyra, Tamworth, and Walcha.

Workers have been informed that they will need to reapply for their jobs through a process involving: “a basic psychometric assessment of cognitive capability, personality, motivations and interests; a selection criteria assessment; an interview; and, if required, a functional assessment.”

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, said there were alternatives to the deep job cuts.

“Unions have put forward a range of options, including for job sharing arrangements and other efficiencies, that could drastically reduce the number of local people who will lose their jobs,” ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said.

“Allowed to continue, these huge staffing reductions will result in the loss of specialist skills and experiences from these communities resulting in chronic future skills shortages not to mention network reliability and safety concerns.

“Rather than taking a simplistic approach of cutting jobs, unions have put forward genuine alternatives that can keep people in work, keep skills in regional NSW, and deliver savings for consumers.

“What the community need to know is that these 58 local jobs are just the beginning and that there will be much more pain to come.

“Essential Energy management have told unions that they already know the names and location for the remaining twelve hundred job losses that are yet to be announced and we believe more than 300 of these will come from the north and west of the state.”

The ETU will be writing to Members of Parliament with a plan to minimize regional job losses over the coming days.

Publicly-owned regional electricity network operator Essential Energy has revealed the location of its first tranche of staffing cuts, with 33 full time positions axed in the Southern region through a “spill and fill” process that requires staff to reapply for their existing jobs.

Essential Energy announced earlier in the year that they plan to axe 1,395 jobs across NSW.

The company informed staff that a final meeting of the Redundancy Consultative Committee will take place on Tuesday 8 September, before individual employees impacted by the cuts are notified on September 9 and 10.

Depots that will lose staff include: Albury, Berrigan, Corowa, Deniliquin, Darlington Point, Griffith, Hay, Hillston, Leeton, Narrandera, Cootamundra, Cowra, Grenfell, Temora, West Wyalong, Young, Coolamon, Culcairn, Junee, Lockhart, Wagga Wagga, Balranald, Barham, Buronga, Moulamein, Tooleybuc, Condobolin, Forbes, Lake Cargelligo, Parkes, Peak Hill, Tottenham, and Trundle.

Workers have been informed that they will need to reapply for their jobs through a process involving: “a basic psychometric assessment of cognitive capability, personality, motivations and interests; a selection criteria assessment; an interview; and, if required, a functional assessment.”

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, said there were alternatives to the deep job cuts.

“Unions have put forward a range of options, including for job sharing arrangements and other efficiencies, that could drastically reduce the number of local people who will lose their jobs,” ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said.

“Allowed to continue, these huge staffing reductions will result in the loss of specialist skills and experiences from these communities resulting in chronic future skills shortages not to mention network reliability and safety concerns.

“Rather than taking a simplistic approach of cutting jobs, unions have put forward genuine alternatives that can keep people in work, keep skills in regional NSW, and deliver savings for consumers.

“What the community need to know is that these 33 local jobs are just the beginning and that there will be much more pain to come.

“Essential Energy management have told unions that they already know the names and location for the remaining twelve hundred job losses that are yet to be announced and we believe up to 300 of these will come from the southern parts of the state.”

The ETU will be writing to Members of Parliament with a plan to minimize regional job losses over the coming days.

Publicly-owned regional electricity network operator Essential Energy has revealed the location of its first tranche of staffing cuts, with 47 full time positions axed on the NSW North Coast through a “spill and fill” process that requires staff to reapply for their existing jobs.

Essential Energy announced earlier in the year that they plan to axe 1,395 jobs across NSW, with unions believing that 400 of these jobs will come from the North Coast region.

The company informed staff that a final meeting of the Redundancy Consultative Committee will take place on Tuesday 8 September, before individual employees impacted by the cuts are notified on September 9 and 10.

Depots that will lose staff include: Taree, Bulahdelah, Dungog, Forster, Gloucester, Port Macquarie, Stroud, Ewingsdale, Ballina, Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads, Dorrigo, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Nambucca Heads, Casino, Grafton, Kyogle, Lismore, and Maclean.

Workers have been informed that they will need to reapply for their jobs through a process involving: “a basic psychometric assessment of cognitive capability, personality, motivations and interests; a selection criteria assessment; an interview; and, if required, a functional assessment.”

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, said there were alternatives to the deep job cuts.

“Unions have put forward a range of options, including for job sharing arrangements and other efficiencies, that could drastically reduce the number of local people who will lose their jobs,” ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said.

“Allowed to continue, these huge staffing reductions will result in the loss of specialist skills and experiences from these communities resulting in chronic future skills shortages not to mention network reliability and safety concerns.

“Rather than taking a simplistic approach of cutting jobs, unions have put forward genuine alternatives that can keep people in work, keep skills in regional NSW, and deliver savings for consumers.

“What the community need to know is that these 47 local jobs are just the beginning and that there will be much more pain to come.

“Essential Energy management have told unions that they already know the names and location for the remaining twelve hundred job losses that are yet to be announced and we believe more than 350 of these will come from the North Coast.”

The ETU will be writing to Members of Parliament with a plan to minimize regional job losses over the coming days.

Disclosures by NSW Government-owned electricity network companies have revealed almost five million dollars was spent in just four years to hire external law firms and private investigators to attack their workforces over disciplinary and industrial matters.

Documents released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act revealed Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid spent $4,604,703 on external legal services between 2010 and 2014.

An additional $223,832 was spent on private investigators in 2014, with Essential Energy revealing that more than 90 per cent of their spending on these services involved workers being investigated for “alleged non-compliances” with the company’s code of conduct.

The GIPA documents showed Ausgrid had spent $1,276,013 on industrial matters, $181,673 on disciplinary matters, and $40,569.20 on private investigators. Essential Energy paid $1,457,824 for industrial matters, $21,398 for disciplinary, and $67,847 for private investigators. And Endeavour Energy reported $1,420,000 for industrial matters, $150,000 for disciplinary matters, and $48,149 for private investigators.

Representative from the Electrical Trades Union and the United Services Union said it was outrageous that millions of dollars in public money, that came directly from consumers, had been spent by the management teams at the four public companies to attack their own workforces.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler also highlighted the vast difference between the amount spent by the four companies, with those under the control of Networks NSW chief executive Vince Graham spending on average nine times as much to attack workers and unions.

“Networks NSW have been crying poor in recent months, announcing that 2,800 jobs at Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy need to be slashed,” Mr Butler said.

“What they haven’t revealed is that they were able to find more than a million dollars a year to spend on external law firms and private investigators solely to attack the hard working men and women who maintain our electricity network and respond during natural disasters.

“Transgrid, who announced no job losses following the determination of the Australian Energy Regulator, has also been shown to have far more modest spending habits compared to the remaining three electricity network companies who are currently slashing jobs.”

United Services Union energy manager Scott McNamara said it was particularly concerning to discover that in addition to the large amounts spent attacking workers and their conditions, private investigators had been recruited to spy on employees without any disclosure.

“Last year alone, nearly a quarter of a million dollars in public money was handed over to private investigators so they would spy on the hard-working employees of these four companies,” Mr McNamara said.

“The fact that such large sums were involved, and the spending was spread across all four companies, shows this approach has become common practice among management teams at war with their own staff.

“The NSW Government tries to blame workers for electricity prices, but what they don’t tell consumers is that millions of dollars from their power bills have been poured into the pockets of large law firms and private investigators.

“This kind of behaviour may be commonplace in communist North Korea, but it is not acceptable in NSW, where committed workers dedicate their working lives to serving the public by ensuring they have a safe, reliable and affordable electricity supply.”

A 62 year old electrical worker has died in hospital of his injuries just days after falling from an extension ladder while working on a construction site in Kensington Street, Chippendale.

The Electrical Trades Union said building work on the site had stopped following the worker’s fall on Wednesday afternoon, with WorkCover NSW issuing prohibition notices in relation to all ladders on the site.

The injured man suffered serious head injuries when he struck the ground, and despite being transported to hospital he later passed away.

ETU spokesman Dave McKinley said union officials had visited the site on at least two occasions prior to the fatal fall, raising a range of safety concerns including in relation to work at heights.

Mr McKinley said that while the deceased man was employed through a labour hire company, workplace health and safety legislation places the ultimate duty of care for providing a safe working environment on builder Rapid Construction and principal electrical contractor Ozlect Electrical.

“From our initial investigations, it appears there have been multiple safety breaches on this construction site that may have directly contributed to this man’s tragic death,” he said.

“Despite previous visits by union officials who highlighted serious safety concerns, including in relation to work carried out at heights, there appears to have been no safe work method statements in place and faulty equipment, including ladders, in use.

“Investigations are ongoing, however a site-wide safety audit conducted following this accident revealed what appear to be systemic failures to implement safe systems of work.

“All work on the project has halted, and safety regulator WorkCover NSW has issued prohibition notices in relation to all ladders on site.

“There are serious questions that still need to be answered by the builder and electrical contractor to explain how this tragic accident was able to occur.

“It is shocking that dozens of workers still die on Australian construction sites every year due to accidents that are easily avoidable if safe work practices are made a priority.”

Publicly-owned electricity network companies Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and Essential Energy, have revealed plans to slash 2749 jobs from September this year, offering staff just one week to consult on the proposal.

Regional electricity provider Essential Energy will be hardest hit, with a proposed reduction of 1395 staff accounting for more than half the total job losses, leading to the decimation of services across the state and a massive economic blow for rural communities.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity network workers, slammed the draft redundancy policies released by the three companies, which not only implement the use of forced redundancies, but vastly reduce the severance payments made to employees who “involuntarily” leave.

The unions said long-serving staff who wish to continue working, but are forced out against their will, will be left tens of thousands of dollars worse off under the plan.

The companies have revealed that the intended job cuts will occur in two phases, with the first positions going in September, and the remainder expected to take place from October.

Essential Energy wants to make 1395 staff redundant, with 700 going in the first phase, Ausgrid intends to cut 1100 jobs, with 600 in the first phase, while Endeavour Energy will reduce its staff by 254, with 120 made redundant during the first phase.

TransGrid, which operates the high-voltage transmission lines across NSW, has said it will not be cutting any jobs, instead expanding its presence in contestable work markets to make up for the loss of regulated revenue following the Australian Energy Regulator’s decision.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the draft policies revealed that the three companies already had a “hit list” of staff whose jobs they intended to cut, while all other employees would in effect be required to reapply for their existing jobs.

“These companies have said that the first staff to go will be those who have previously been redeployed, along with those whose job is being discontinued at a particular location,” Mr Butler said.

“They have also revealed is that they already know who these employees are — so there’s a hit list of staff who are to loose their jobs, yet employees have no idea if they are on it.

“For the remaining job cuts, the companies have said a ‘merit based selection’ will be used, essentially requiring all employees to reapply for their existing jobs, with management cherry-picking who can stay and who will go.

“Premier Mike Baird needs to come clean on whether he has signed off on this plan, because on his watch nearly 2,800 NSW families — more than half of which are in rural or regional areas — will lose their primary income.

“When challenged by the union at a meeting earlier this month, the Premier said the government would not expand the work carried out by the electricity businesses in order to keep NSW workers employed.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara criticised the rushed nature of the proposal, which gave employees and their unions just one week to consult on the draft plans, as well as the attempt to blame the proposed jobs cuts on the AER.

“This policy highlights the sham nature of consultation under the Baird Government, with employees given just one week to consult on how almost three thousand people may lose their jobs,” Mr McNamara said.

“Worse still, they are continuing to try to blame the energy regulator for these proposed job cuts, which is extremely deceptive and has already been shown to be untrue.

“While Essential Energy wants to shed almost 1,400 jobs, TransGrid has given an undertaking to expand the current business into contestable works markets, in order to keep all current staff employed.

“This decision to slash jobs is a choice of management — and appears to have been influenced by the NSW Government — but it is a choice they don’t have to make.

“At the Parliamentary enquiry into power privatisation earlier this year, AER chief executive officer Michelle Groves specifically told MPs: ‘we have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses’.”

The unions said the proposed redundancy policies particularly disadvantaged loyal, long-serving staff who wished to continue in their employment.

 For example, a 44-year-old linesperson with Ausgrid who started as an apprentice and has remained with the company for 25 years, would be entitled to a voluntary redundancy package worth 87 weeks pay. But if that same employee wants to keep working for the company, but is then made to take a forced redundancy, that payment would be slashed to 16 weeks.

“This policy of not only imposing forced redundancies, but paying much lower severance packages for them, is particularly nasty,” Mr Butler said.

“It means long serving staff who want to remain in their jobs risk loosing tens of thousands of dollars, essentially forcing people to ‘volunteer’ for redundancy — whether or not they want to leave — or risk being jobless and thousands of dollars out of pocket.

“This is an incredibly nasty way for the Baird Government to treat people who have spent their working lives serving the people of NSW.”

You can read letters sent to the union by the electricity companies outlining how they intend to make staff redundant.

Power industry unions are today considering their legal and industrial options following the Baird Government’s failure to consult with the workforces of Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid ahead of their privatisation.

The moves follow a refusal by Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian to negotiate with unions over an employment protections package for workers at the companies, despite pre-election commitments to do so.

Unions sought urgent meetings following the tabling of legislation allowing the sale of majority stakes in Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, and the full sale of statewide transmission business TransGrid.

The NSW Government told unions a pre-existing 30 minute meeting with the Premier next Monday, which was to discuss the impact of the Australian Energy Regulator’s recent determinations and was sought by unions more than two weeks ago, will now be the only consultation over what protections would be put in place for workers and apprentices ahead of the sale.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity network workers, have warned that without proper employment protections in place, private owners will slash jobs, apprentice numbers, close depots and offices, and contract out other services.

“Before the election, Mike Baird told the people of NSW that he would put protections in place to ensure a new owner didn’t slash local jobs, as occurred in Victoria when that state privatised electricity assets,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Last week, Gladys Berejiklian repeated those promises, telling the parliamentary inquiry that the government would consult with all stakeholders.

“Power industry unions have made themselves available for urgent negotiations, including after hours or over the weekend, but neither the Premier nor Treasurer is willing to meet.

“The Baird Government must honour the promises made to workers and the community ahead of the election, including their pledge to consult with workers to ensure appropriate employment protections were put in place prior to legislation passing through the parliament.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara accused Liberal and National Party MPs of going to ground on job protections following the election, with not one standing up publicly to advocate an agreement that would protect jobs, skills and training opportunities.

“Before the election, Coalition MPs and candidates across the state claimed that fears of job losses or service cuts were being exaggerated, and that protections would be put in place as part of the privatisation process,” Mr McNamara said.

“Since being elected, they’ve all lost their voices, refusing to advocate for the local men and women whose jobs are now at risk.

“We are also calling on Fred Nile — who indicated that strong employment protections would be required for him to support this sale — to make clear to the Baird Government that it must consult in good faith with the workforce of these three public companies.”

Mr Butler said workers were simply asking for protections similar to those provided to workers at electricity generation businesses when they were sold by the O’Farrell Government.

“Before the election Mike Baird said that he would protect electricity jobs threatened by his privatisation plan, but now after the election he is refusing to consult on this very issue,” Mr Butler said.

“Previous NSW privatisations, whether done under Labor or the Liberals, have seen appropriate employment protections put in place prior to legislation passing the parliament.

“That process is essential to provide certainty for workers, continuity for apprentice and training programs, and to maintain service standards.

“It is extremely concerning that the NSW Government has decided to jump the gun, tabling legislation ahead of the parliamentary inquiry even handing down its findings or consultation occurring with workers and their unions.

“Beyond any political promises made before the election, the NSW Government has a moral obligation to consult with the workforce of these publicly-owned businesses ahead of their partial or majority sale to a private owner.

“Mike Baird says that NSW has waited twenty years for this privatisation. I’m sure the state can wait another month to ensure it’s done right.”