Workers at Essential Energy have been urged to “vote no” in a ballot for a new workplace agreement, with unions accusing management at the NSW Government-owned electricity distributor of trying to avoid the matter being determined by the independent industrial umpire.
Unions have warned that the management-initiated ballot, if successful, would result in a cut to real wages and massive regional job losses. The electronic voting process commences from tomorrow, Saturday 4 June, and closes at 5pm on Thursday 9 June.
The management proposal offers a single 2.5 per cent pay increase over three years in return for workers agreeing to allow potentially unlimited forced redundancies, along with cuts to employment conditions, reduced consultation over future changes, and cuts to take home pay.
The Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union and Professional Australia, which represent Essential Energy employees, said the ballot was a last ditch effort by management to avoid having the Fair Work Commission determine the outcome of the long running dispute.
“Last week, the Fair Work Commission triggered a 21-day bargaining period that will be followed by automatic arbitration if no agreement is reached between the company and its employees,” ETU secretary Steve Butler.
“That decision was welcomed by unions as it potentially takes the decision making process out of management’s hands, allowing for independent assessment of the case by the industrial umpire which would then hand down a binding decision.
“After refusing to budge for 18 months, management has decided to have one final crack at getting their anti-worker agenda through in the form of this management initiated ballot.”
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said power industry unions were urging workers to make sure they vote over the coming days, ensuring a clear rejection of this attempt to cut jobs and employment conditions.
“We are urging our members to make sure that they vote, that they vote no, and that they encourage their colleagues to do the same,” Mr Kelly said.
“We believe it is in the interest of Essential Energy workers to overwhelmingly reject this offer and instead allow the independent umpire to decide the outcome through arbitration.
“In 18 months of negotiations, Essential Energy management have refused to budge on their determination to slash hundreds of regional jobs and cut conditions that were fought for and won by previous generations.
“Essential Energy management, at the bidding of their masters in the Baird Government, continue to push for a workplace arrangement that will allow them to slash regional jobs and cut the quality of services available to power consumers.”
Background information regarding Essential Energy ballot:
Essential Energy management have initiated a ballot on a proposed workplace agreement which is opposed by power industry unions.
The ballot, which runs from Saturday 4 June until Thursday 9 June, is being run by Elections Australia Pty Ltd. Essential Energy employees will be emailed a code which they can then use to vote at www.myvote.com.au.
Changes to existing employment conditions in the proposed management agreement include:
Implementation of forced redundancies, with 250 people per year to be forcibly sacked on top of any voluntary redundancies. From 1 July 2018 there would be no cap on the number of forced redundancies;
Financial penalties for workers who are made forcibly redundant after refusing to accept a voluntary redundancy. Additional severance and early acceptance payments of up to 28 weeks pay available to workers who elect to take an early voluntary redundancy offer. If an employee does not choose to accept the early voluntary redundancy offer, they enter a 26-week retention period after which their employment is terminated and a lower severance payment provided;
Any employee who is made redundant is banned from being re-employed in an alternate position at the company for a period of 2 years;
The three year agreement only provides workers with a single, 2.5 per cent pay increase. This is less than inflation and amounts to a cut in real wages;
Cuts to conditions and entitlements will substantially reduce the take-home pay. Over the life of the agreement, many workers will miss out on thousands of dollars in entitlements;
Changes to consultation clauses will allow the company to proceed with major changes after a 28 day process. These major changes — such as replacing employees with contractors — are able to proceed after that four-week period regardless of the views of employees;
Removal of the “status quo” provision which currently ensures existing arrangements are maintained while a dispute is resolved; and
Minimum payment for being recalled to work outside of rostered hours, such as during storms or other major outages, halved from four hours to two hours.