ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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Essential Energy workers hold four hour stop work action across southern half of NSW from 9am today

Paul Lister - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Protected industrial action at NSW Government-owned electricity distributor Essential Energy will take place for four hours today at more than 50 workplaces and depots across the state (full list at end).

Essential Energy employees last month voted overwhelmingly in support of taking protected industrial action in support of a new enterprise agreement. This followed an unprecedented legal attack by the company, which is seeking to terminate existing workplace agreements and cut the wages and conditions of thousands of employees across the state.

The Electrical Trades Union said Essential Energy management was also seeking to impose a new workplace agreement that would allow the immediate sacking of 800 regional employees.

ETU assistant secretary Neville Betts said workers at more than 50 depots, control rooms and other workplaces would take part in protected industrial action from 9am today (Wednesday 20 April).

“If Essential Energy gets its way, not only will redundancy provisions, redeployments, and salary maintenance conditions be threatened, but wages would be cut and almost a thousand regional jobs would be immediately slashed,” Mr Betts said.

“Workers simply refuse to take that kind of unprecedented attack lying down, and are determined to defend jobs and services in their communities across NSW.”

Mr Betts said union members would remain at their depots for the duration of the work stoppages in order to support their local community in the event of an emergency.

Workers are separately implementing a series of periodic bans on particular types of work, such as communicating with contractors or completing paperwork not related to workplace safety.

“Management simply refuse to budge from their proposal that staff accept massive jobs cuts, a two-year wage freeze, a ban on redundant employees applying for other jobs with the company, and a halving of the payment for emergency call-outs,” Mr Betts said.

“Workers refuse to accept that treatment, leaving them with no choice but to protest through lawful industrial action until the company starts to bargain in good faith.

“If Liberal and National Party MPs truly care about protecting jobs in regional NSW, now would be a good time for them to step up to the plate in supporting Essential Energy workers and their local communities.”

Locations of Essential Energy work stoppages — Wednesday 20 April:

Albury, Balranaid, Barham, Bathurst, Bega, Berrigan, Blayney, Bombala, Boorowa, Braidwood, Broken Hill, Buronga, Canowindra, Condobolin, Coolamon, Cooma, Cootamundra, Corowa, Cowra, Crookwell, Culcairn, Darlington Point, Deniliquin, Forbes, Goulburn, Grenfell, Griffith, Gundagai, Harden, Hay, Hillston, Jerilderie, Jindabyne, Junee, Lake Cargelligo, Leeton, Lockhart, Menindee, Moama, Molong, Moruya, Moulamein, Narrandera, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Peak Hill, Queanbeyan, Temora, Tooleybuc, Tottenham, Trundle, Tumbarumba, Tumut, Wagga Wagga, West Wyalong, Wilcannia, Yass, Young.

Ausgrid bidders must commit to safe removal of asbestos from electrical infrastructure

Paul Lister - Friday, April 15, 2016

Bidders for the publicly-owned electricity distributor Ausgrid are being urged to commit to the complete removal and remediation of deadly asbestos following revelations it was illegally imported and installed in more than 50 substations across Sydney, the Central Coast and Hunter.

Despite being banned from importation or use, between 2007 and 2014 almost a thousands switchgear units containing asbestos were installed in more than 50 substations, including those housed in Royal North Shore Hospital and The Star casino.

The Electrical Trades Union said that while a very small number of substations have been fully remediated, most simply had the asbestos sealed in place because the company wanted to avoid costly cleanups that would require disruptions to electricity services.

ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said the union was seeking a commitment for a full cleanup of asbestos hazards from the two bidders seeking to buy a majority of the company, Chinese government-owned State Grid Corp and Cheung Kong Infrastructure, owned by Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing.

“The union is demanding that any purchaser of Ausgrid commit to not only safely remove and remediate this newly installed asbestos, but also to the complete removal of asbestos throughout the network,” Mr Butler said.

“We saw during the roll-out of the National Broadband Network the potential risks for workers and the community that are posed by asbestos remaining in public infrastructure, and we want potential buyers to do what the NSW Government has failed to do — completely remove it from the Ausgrid network.”

Mr Butler said the union was prepared and ready to impose safety bans and carry out other actions to see that the future safety of workers and the public was protected.

“Despite asbestos being knowingly — and unknowingly — used for decades at Ausgrid, not all of the locations of this deadly fibre are known,” he said.

“From what we do know, the ETU estimates the total bill to safely remove all asbestos could run to $2 billion.

“We need to ensure that bidders have committed to the full remediation of the network — and factored those costs into their budget — before the NSW Government hands over control of the poles and wires.”

The union said the revelation that new asbestos was able to slip through Australia’s import bans, and be installed over a period of seven years, was particularly concerning.

“This freshly-imported asbestos poses a far greater risk to workers, because no one expects it to be contained in new equipment,” Mr Butler said.

“Because workers assume new products are asbestos free, they often don't take the same safety precautions that would be used for older equipment.”

A full list of substation locations, and a link to photos and footage of the equipment can be found below.

Click here to view mobile phone footage and photographs of the Tamco Switchgear equipment inside an Ausgrid substation.

Full list of substations were asbestos-containing switchboards were installed between 2007 and 2014:

Newcastle / Hunter:
Aberdeen, Adamstown, Brandy Hill, Broadmeadow, Charlestown, Croudace Bay, Jesmond, Kurri, Maitland, Mayfield West, Medowie, Morisset, Muswellbrook, Rathmines, Raymond Terrace, Rothbury, Scone, Tanilba Bay, Tomago, Tomaree

Central Coast:
Avoca, Empire Bay, Lake Munmorah, Long Jetty, Berkeley Vale, Wamberal

Sydney:
Bankstown, Balgowlah North, Berowra, Camperdown, Croydon, Engadine, Epping, Galston, Gwawley Bay, Hurstville North, Kingsford, Kogarah, Leichhardt, Lindfield, Macquarie Park, Mona Vale, Mortdale, North Sydney (Bradfield Park and North Pylon), Port Botany, Potts Hill, Pyrmont (Sydney Casino), Rose Bay, Sans Souci, St Leonards (Royal North Shore Hospital), Top Ryde, Turramurra, Waverley

Essential Energy workers to begin protected industrial action and work bans at depots across NSW from next week

Paul Lister - Friday, April 08, 2016
The Electrical Trades Union has formally notified management at NSW Government-owned electricity distributor Essential Energy that protected industrial action will begin at locations across the state from next week, starting with two four-hour stoppages and a series of temporary work bans.

Essential Energy employees last month voted overwhelmingly in support of taking protected industrial action in support of a new enterprise agreement. This followed an unprecedented legal attack by the company, which is seeking to terminate existing workplace agreements and cut the wages and conditions of thousands of employees across the state.

The union said Essential Energy management was also seeking to impose a new workplace agreement that would allow the immediate sacking of 800 regional employees.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said workers at more than 100 depots, control rooms and other workplaces would take part in protected industrial action (full list below). Half will stop work for four hours from 9am on Thursday 14 April, while the remainder will take part in a four hour stoppage from 9am on Wednesday 20 April.

“If Essential Energy gets its way, not only will redundancy provisions, redeployments, and salary maintenance conditions be threatened, but wages would be cut and almost a thousand regional jobs would be immediately slashed,” Mr Butler said.

“Workers simply refuse to take that kind of unprecedented attack lying down, and are determined to defend jobs and services in their communities across NSW.”

Mr Butler said union members would return to depots for the work stoppages in order to support their local community in the event of an emergency.

Workers will also implement a series of periodic bans on particular types of work, such as communicating with contractors or completing paperwork not related to workplace safety.

“Management simply refuse to budge from their proposal that staff accept massive jobs cuts, a two-year wage freeze, a ban on redundant employees applying for other jobs with the company, and a halving of the payment for emergency call-outs,” Mr Butler said.

“Workers refuse to accept that treatment, leaving them with no choice but to protest through lawful industrial action until the company starts to bargain in good faith.

“If Liberal and National Party MPs truly care about protecting jobs in regional NSW, now would be a good time for them to step up to the plate in supporting Essential Energy workers and their local communities.”

Timing and location of Essential Energy work stoppages:

Thursday 14 April, 9am until 1pm: Armidale, Ballina, Barraba, Bourke, Brewarrina, Bulahdelah, Casino, Cobar, Coffs Harbour, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Dorrigo, Dubbo, Dunedoo, Dungog, Ewingsdale, Forster, Gilgandra, Glen Innes, Gloucester, Goodiwindi, Grafton, Gunnedah, Guyra, Inverell, Kempsey, Kyogle, Lismore, Maclean, Moree, Mudgee, Murwillumbah, Nambucca Heads, Narrabri, Narromine, Nyngan, Port Macquarie, Quirindi, Stroud, Tamworth, Taree, Tenterfield, Texas, Tweed Heads, Walcha, Walgett, Warialda, Warren and Wellington.

Wednesday 20 April, 9am until 1pm: Albury, Balranaid, Barham, Bathurst, Bega, Berrigan, Blayney, Bombala, Boorowa, Braidwood, Broken Hill, Buronga, Canowindra, Condobolin, Coolamon, Cooma, Cootamundra, Corowa, Cowra, Crookwell, Culcairn, Darlington Point, Deniliquin, Forbes, Goulburn, Grenfell, Griffith, Gundagai, Harden, Hay, Hillston, Jerilderie, Jindabyne, Junee, Lake Cargelligo, Leeton, Lockhart, Menindee, Moama, Molong, Moruya, Moulamein, Narrandera, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Peak Hill, Queanbeyan, Temora, Tooleybuc, Tottenham, Trundle, Tumbarumba, Tumut, Wagga Wagga, West Wyalong, Wilcannia, Yass, Young.