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ETU Media Releases

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Queanbeyan: Essential Energy workers demand Monaro MP intervene after company axes 20 jobs

Paul Lister - Thursday, March 31, 2016

Essential Energy workers will today protest outside the office of Monaro MP John Barilaro after the publicly owned electricity network company announced the closure of the Morrissett Street call centre.

Staff were notified on the eve of Easter that 20 local workers would no longer have jobs, taking to 538 the number of regional jobs slashed by Essential Energy since June last year.

The Electrical Trades Union said the NSW Government appeared determined to increase the profits they receive from the public company by aggressively attacking staff across regional NSW, with wages and conditions attacked, jobs cut, and apprentices terminated.

ETU Southern NSW organiser Mick Koppie slammed the callous timing of the job cuts.

“On the eve of Easter, Essential Energy management turned up at the call centre in Morrissett Street to tell staff that their positions were redundant and that they would no longer have a job,” Mr Koppie said.

“Management then had the hide to tell these workers that they can continue working for Essential Energy, but only if they move more than 650 kilometres to Port Macquarie.

“These are twenty local workers, many with young families, affected by these job cuts and management’s solution is to tell them to pack up their life and hit the road. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

Mr Koppie accused National Party MPs, including John Barilaro, of sitting on the sidelines while the NSW Government owned company attacked regional jobs and services.

“As far as local workers can tell, National Party MP’s are sitting silently by as Essential Energy rips the heart out of regional NSW by slashing jobs and attacking their dedicated employees,” he said.

“Essential Energy is wholly owned by the NSW Government, meaning that these attacks on regional workers must be sanctioned by the Baird Government as the sole shareholder.”

The union said workers were protesting outside the office of local MP and NSW Government Minister John Barilaro today to demand he stand by pledges he made ahead of the 2015 election, including:

“I will always lead the charge in protecting local electricity jobs” (Media release — 9/3/2015); and

“a key priority for this government is about creating and securing local jobs, so our families can look forward to being able to live and work in the Monaro” (Media release — 17/3/2015).

“Essential Energy workers are calling on John Barilaro to stand by his earlier commitment to protect local electricity jobs and stop these cuts from happening,” Mr Koppie said.

“If these jobs end up being axed from Queanbeyan we will all know that John Barilaro has failed to represent his electorate and protect local jobs.”

Essential Energy workers vote to take industrial action.

Paul Lister - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Electrical Trades Union members employed at Essential Energy have voted overwhelmingly in support of industrial action and other work bans, with stoppages at the publicly-owned electricity network company now able to lawfully take place from early next month.

The ballot, conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, found 94.8 per cent supported implementing work stoppages of between one and 72 hours in length, while 96.1 per cent endorsed imposing bans on a range of work practices, including overtime, training, paperwork, and the use of computers, mobile phones and other technologies.

The vote came as the NSW Government-owned company is undertaking an unprecedented legal attack on workers, seeking to terminate a range of agreements and policies.

If successful, the case could terminate policies covering redundancy provisions, staff redeployments, and salary maintenance, stripping away wages and conditions from thousands of employees across the state.

The company has also proposed a new workplace agreement that would allow the immediate sacking of 800 regional employees, as well as an unlimited number of job cuts after June 2018.

ETU secretary Steve Butler accused Essential Energy management of treating their loyal workforce with complete contempt.

“Essential Energy management are holding a gun to the head of their entire workforce, telling them to voluntarily accept cuts to their pay and conditions or face an unprecedented legal move that would see workplace agreements and policies simply torn up,” he said.

“The result of this ballot shows workers won’t accept that kind of treatment, and they are ready and willing to take industrial action and other forms of protest until Essential Energy starts to bargain in good faith by considering the needs of their workforce.

“This is the first time a publicly-owned company has attempted to rip up their own workplace agreement, which had been negotiated in good faith, using it as a tool to threaten massive cuts to wages, conditions and jobs.”

Mr Butler said the company was refusing to budge from their proposal that staff accept a two-year wage freeze, a ban on redundant employees applying for other jobs with the company for two years, a halving of the payment when workers are called in from home to emergencies, and the removal of requirements for private contractors conducting outsourced work to pay appropriate wages and conditions.

“Liberal and National Party MPs should hang their heads in shame,” he said.

Thousands of NSW power workers have jobs, pay and conditions threatened in unprecedented attack

Paul Lister - Tuesday, March 08, 2016

In an unprecedented legal attack, NSW Government-owned electricity distributor Essential Energy this afternoon filed legal proceedings seeking to terminate a range of agreements and policies covering thousands of power workers across the state.

The move to terminate an existing workplace agreement, along with policies covering redundancy provisions, staff redeployments, and salary maintenance, is the first attempt by a publicly-owned corporation to use a controversial legal precedent — set last year — to strip away wages and conditions.

Documents filed with the Fair Work Commission, signed off by Essential Energy CEO Gary Humphreys, confirm that existing job protections and conditions would be lost, with staff instead receiving lower pay and conditions under the Award.

The Electrical Trades Union and United Services Union, which together represent Essential Energy workers, said the move to tear up the agreement — the week a ballot asking staff whether they support taking industrial action opens — was nothing more than an attempt to intimidate the workforce.

“This is an unprecedented attack by a publicly-owned organisation on its own workers,” USU energy manager Scott McNamara said.

“Either the NSW Government is behind this attempt to carry out unfettered job cuts in rural and regional NSW, or management have gone completely rogue.

“If Essential Energy succeeds in having the existing workplace agreement torn up, thousands of jobs could be cut across NSW, while wages and conditions for the remaining workforce would be slashed.”

ETU assistant secretary Neville Betts called on rural and regional MPs to demand urgent action by the Baird Government to have Essential Energy’s management brought into line.

“Before the election, Mike Baird promised the people of NSW that Essential Energy would remain in public hands, that regional jobs would be secure, and that electricity consumers wouldn’t face a downgrading to local skills and services,” he said.

“Instead, Essential Energy management — either in a rogue move or with the blessing of the NSW Government — has launched an unprecedented legal attack on his own workforce that could see thousands of highly-skilled and loyal workers lose their jobs.

“Regional MPs need to urgently speak up in defence of local workers who are being stood-over and intimidated by management.

“To do anything else would be an admission that the voters of NSW were deliberately deceived about the future of the publicly-owned electricity distributor.”

Mr McNamara also questioned the timing of the application, which came just hours after it was publicly revealed that the Australian Electoral Commission was carrying out a ballot of Essential Energy employees that could result in them taking protected industrial action as early as next month.

“This has all the hallmarks of a heavy-handed attempt to pressure staff ahead of this vote,” he said.

“Management are using the threat of having this workplace agreement terminated entirely to strong-arm staff into signing away conditions in advance.”

Essential Energy workers hold vote on industrial action over proposal to slash 800 regional jobs

Paul Lister - Monday, March 07, 2016

A ballot of Essential Energy employees across NSW will decide whether staff at the publicly-owned electricity network take industrial action over a proposal by the company to slash 800 regional jobs and remove key workplace conditions.

The Fair Work Commission has approved the vote, with the Australian Electoral Commission this week distributing ballot papers to thousands of Essential Energy employees.

Essential Energy staff have until March 22 to vote on a range of protest actions, including work stoppages of between one and 72 hours in length, and bans on a range of work practices including overtime, training, paperwork, and the use of computers, mobile phones and other technologies.

The Electrical Trades Union and United Services Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, said the industrial action vote was a direct response to a new workplace agreement, proposed by Essential Energy management, that would see the forced sacking of 800 regional employees and allow an unlimited number of further job cuts after June 2018.

The unions said the proposal would also freeze wages for two years, ban employees who are made redundant from applying for other jobs with the company for two years, halve the amount workers are paid when called in during emergencies, and remove a requirement that private contractors doing outsourced work must pay appropriate wages and conditions.

“Industrial action is always a last resort,” ETU assistant secretary Neville Betts said. “Our members would much rather negotiate a fair outcome that protects regional jobs.

“While we remain committed to negotiations, workers were left with few alternatives after Essential Energy circulated a draft agreement that includes massive job cuts, cuts to wages and conditions, and provisions that allow work to be outsourced to unscrupulous contractors.

“If workers vote in support of industrial action, a range of work stoppages or other protest actions could begin as early as next month.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said the NSW Government was responsible for a slash-and-burn mentality at the publicly owned company, which put the future of regional jobs and services at risk.

“The Nationals told voters in rural and regional NSW they wouldn’t privatise Essential Energy, but what they didn’t tell them was that they would slash regional jobs and services after the election,” he said.

“Cuts to jobs and conditions inevitably impact on local communities, while also undermining safety, network reliability and response times following emergencies and natural disasters.

“It’s time for Essential Energy to abandon their attacks on thousands of loyal workers and instead negotiate in good faith to reach a fair workplace agreement.”