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.