ETU Media Releases

Unions have advised workers who were told by Essential Energy management not to come in from Monday to turn up for work as usual, with a legal challenge against the move being heard by the Fair Work Commission tomorrow morning.

On Tuesday, the publicly-owned electricity network operator informed workers from more than 50 regional communities that their jobs were “unfunded” and that they should no longer attend work after this week — placing their futures in limbo.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent employees at the company, said Essential Energy’s move appeared to breach both the existing workplace agreement as well as the company’s own redeployment policy.

ETU secretary Steve Butler described Essential Energy’s actions as: “nothing more than psychological warfare waged against a dedicated and loyal workforce”.

“We believe Essential Energy has breached their current workplace agreement, as well as their redeployment policy, and as a result we have advised affected employees that they should continue to attend work as normal,” he said.

“We have also lodged a dispute in the Fair Work Commission, which will be heard tomorrow morning.

“Essential Energy’s workplace agreement says while a matter is in dispute, the status quo should continue — that is that employees should continue to attend work as they would have before this week.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said the move by management to give staff just three days notice that they are no longer required to attend work was a callous and brutal way to treat loyal employees.

“This is an extraordinary move — putting hundreds of workers in limbo with no idea what their future holds — and one that we will fight,” Mr McNamara said.

“We have requested urgent meetings with management regarding their failure to properly consult before this announcement, as well as the fact that they appear to have contravened their own redeployment policy.

“This is now a matter for the Fair Work Commission, and we have made it clear to our members that they should continue to attend work until this matter is resolved.”

Publicly-owned electricity network operator Essential Energy today informed 74 regional workers that they must clear out their personal belongings by Friday, and are no longer to attend work from Monday.

The jobs are among 262 from 32 regional locations that have been identified as “unfunded” and will be cut, including 84 from works depots, 63 from meter reading and vegetation management, and nine from management, corporate and support roles.

These job losses come in addition to 315 positions that have gone since June, and a further 123 workers who are currently going through the voluntary redundancy process.

The Electrical Trade Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, described today’s announcement as a callous and brutal way to treat loyal employees.

“Calling people into a meeting and telling them that they have just three days to clear out their belongings, that their workplace access will be disabled and that they are not required to attend work, is an appalling way to treat loyal workers,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Unions previously put a range of options to the company that would have saved many of these regional jobs, but all of these proposals have been either rejected by Essential Energy or ignored altogether.

“Essential Energy management have also stubbornly refused to re-enter the contestable works market, despite fellow NSW Government-owned network company TransGrid using that approach to prevent the need for any job cuts.

“We believe that today’s announcement by Essential Energy is not the end game.

“These workers can’t continue under these circumstances indefinitely, and Essential Energy has a moral responsibility — not only to these affected employees but to the broader community — to come clean and tell people what their real plans are.”

Steve Butler also accused National Party MPs of failing to take action to defend local jobs, saying the publicly-owned power company had only been able to press ahead with the savage cuts because of the Government’s silence.

“The silence of Government MPs has been deafening,” Mr Butler said.

“This company is 100 per cent owned by the public, there are tangible alternatives to cutting these jobs, yet the MPs elected to represent the communities impacted by these job losses have sat back and allowed their communities to be decimated.”

Mr Butler said the company was also pressing ahead with a plan to force employees whose jobs were listed as “unfunded” to use up parts of their personal leave entitlements, despite this matter being subject to Fair Work Commission proceedings.

“Essential Energy’s push to force workers to run down personal leave entitlements is disgraceful and is an example of how far management are prepared to go in these attacks.

“The company is also pursuing the use of forced redundancies, which is the subject of ongoing legal action.”

The ETU will today appear before the Fair Work Commission to argue against publicly owned power companies Ausgrid and Essential Energy introducing policies that would allow them to forcibly sack 2,500 workers from across NSW.

The hearing, being presided over by Fair Work Commission Vice President Hatcher, will hear arguments from Ausgrid and Essential Energy on why they believe they should be allowed to introduce forced sackings which the unions say is in breach of current employment contracts.

Today’s hearing is likely to be the first of many as the union fights to stop proposed mass sackings. A decision on whether Ausgrid and Essential Energy can change their current redundancy policy is likely to be handed down sometime over the coming weeks.

ETU Deputy Secretary Neville Betts said the ETU will be arguing in the strongest possible terms against the validity of Ausgrid and Essential Energy’s determined push to introduce forced sackings.

“We believe that plans to introduce involuntary redundancy by Ausgrid and Essential Energy is in breach of their existing workplace agreement.” Mr Betts said

“These companies, presumably supported by the NSW Government, are using tax payer’s money to hire expensive lawyers with the sole purpose of sacking thousands of front line power workers from across the state.”

“If Ausgrid and Essential Energy are successful in their bid to axe these highly skilled essential service jobs, hundreds of local communities will be devastated socially and economically in what can only be explained as avoidable job losses.” said Mr Betts

“The ETU has presented alternatives to the proposed mass sackings including job sharing, roster changes, voluntary redundancy mix and match programs and expansion of these businesses into “non-regulated” revenue areas but management and politicians alike are not interested.”

“The ETU wrote to almost every member of state parliament seeking support to minimise local job losses through an alternative plan, less than a dozen responded and only two took the time to meet with union representatives.”

“Clearly the only jobs that management and MP’s appear to be interested in are their own, otherwise there would be a concerted effort by all parties to implement every measure possible to save jobs.” Mr Betts said

“We have been in negotiations with Ausgrid and Essential Energy for many months seeking a new workplace agreement and the retention of a no forced redundancy policy has formed one of the fundamental claims of workers.”

“There is a clear process when it comes to bargaining and we are of the opinion that the existing agreement remains in force until such time as a new agreement is voted on and accepted by the workforce.” Mr Betts said
 
“This as an extremely important matter not only for those workers affected but also for hundreds of communities across NSW who will be forced to deal with the impact of local job losses, which once lost will never be replaced.” finished Mr Betts

If Ausgrid and Essential Energy are successful in their push to introduce a forced redundancy policy 2,500 workers from across regional NSW, the Hunter Valley, Newcastle, Central Coast and parts of Sydney will face the sack just weeks before Christmas.

A leaked management briefing from NSW Government-owned electricity network business Ausgrid has revealed a plan to slash jobs, close local depots, axe apprenticeships, sell off state-of-the-art training facilities and outsource call centres in the lead up to the privatisation of the company.

The three-phase plan, due to be rolled out during the next year, comes in addition to 1100 job cuts announced by the company earlier this month, which will come from workplaces in Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

The Electrical Trades Union said the NSW Government needed to urgently explain why Ausgrid was planning to make major cuts which appeared to directly breach promised protections for jobs, service levels, and apprentice numbers made before the election.

“This deeply alarming document reveals Ausgrid management are looking to circumvent promised protections for services and jobs that were made before the election,” ETU assistant secretary Dave McKinley said.

“The management briefing outlines imminent plans for the axing of apprenticeships, the sale of training facilities, the closure of local depots, the outsourcing of their call centre — likely offshore — along with reductions to inspections that currently guarantee safety and reliability.

“The proposals come on top of 1,100 job losses, already revealed by Ausgrid earlier this month, that will see front-line power workers axed across Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle before the end of the year.”

Mr McKinley said thousands of jobs were at risk in what appeared to be an attempt to gut the company ahead of the planned sale of a 50.4 per cent stake in the company next year.

“We fear Ausgrid is gutting jobs and services at the company prior to the Baird Government’s electricity privatisation transaction next year, all in the hope of delivering a higher sale price,” he said.

“This is exactly what happened in Victoria when the Kennett Government privatised electricity — safety inspections were pushed out by years and maintenance slashed — resulting in the Black Saturday bushfires that killed more than 100 people.

“Outsourcing the operation of the network, including maintenance work, will result in the public suffering more frequent and longer blackouts, as well as posing a risk to worker and public safety.

“Mike Baird gave a commitment that there would be no forced redundancies, that apprentices would have a future, and that workers would be given five year employment guarantees. They now appear to have been hollow promises designed simply to get electricity privatisation through the parliament.

“Cross bench MPs, and in particular Fred Nile, must hold Ausgrid and the government to account and prevent their attempt to circumvent the job and service protections passed earlier this year.”

Endeavour Energy management has today revealed details of 120 job cuts from workplaces in Sydney’s west, Wollongong, and the Southern Highlands.

In a briefing to unions, Endeavour Energy confirmed that these cuts were in addition to 115 staff who had taken voluntarily redundancies since July and that a further phase of 135 job cuts would take place later this year.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent Endeavour Energy workers, expressed concern that alternative options to maintain employment had not been explored, and that the company was pressing ahead with forced redundancies for the majority of the cuts announced today.

The company revealed that 39 jobs would be cut in western Sydney, 7 in the Illawarra, and 3 in the Southern Highlands, however it did not disclose the location of 30 staff labelled “redeployees”, or the location of a further 41 voluntary redundancies.

ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts criticised the fact that the company had only released location details for a fraction of job losses.

“Between the job cuts announced today, and the 115 people who have already taken voluntary redundancies, there have been 235 positions cut across western Sydney, the Illawarra and the Southern Highlands,” Mr Betts said.

“Yet Endeavour Energy has provided the locations of less than 50, meaning the true number of jobs cut from each area could be four or five times what has been revealed today.

“The company also confirmed that another phase of 135 terminations can be expected later this year.”

Mr Betts said the union had written to government and opposition MPs in electorates impacted by the cuts, urging them to support a plan to save local jobs at the publicly-owned electricity network company.

“It is extremely disappointing that Endeavour Energy management have not taken up a range of union proposals that would have substantially reduced today’s job cuts,” Mr Betts said.

“We have provided details of these proposals — including roster changes, job sharing, expansion of non-regulated work, and a mix and match voluntary redundancy program and re-entering the contestable works market — to MPs and urged them to make urgent representations to Premier Mike Baird on behalf of local Endeavour Energy workers.

“We have also called on them to publicly oppose these job cuts, support the retention of highly skilled front-line power jobs, and raise the alternatives to job cuts in their party room meetings.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara challenged claims that job cuts had been forced on management by the Australian Energy Regulator.

“Endeavour Energy claim their hands are tied, that they need to cut these jobs, but it simply isn’t true,” Mr McNamara said.

“TransGrid, which operates the high voltage transmission network, had a 25 per cent reduction in their regulated revenue, yet by implementing the kind of policies we have advocated for at Endeavour Energy they have said there will be no need for job cuts.

“AER CEO Michelle Groves made the same point earlier this year, when she told a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry that: ‘We have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses’.”

Mr McNamara said the public needed to understand that these cuts were just the first phase.

“Endeavour Energy have confirmed today that they expect to announce another wave of 135 job cuts by the end of the year,” Mr McNamara said.

“In total, with jobs cuts announced today and staff that have left over the last two months, that will mean nearly a fifth of the company’s workforce gone in just six months.

“Not only will this have devastating impacts on many local communities, it will result in a reduction to services for consumers, slower responses following emergencies and natural disasters, and poorer maintenance.”

MEDIA COMMENT: Neville Betts 0408 520 400

 

ENDEAVOUR ENERGY JOB CUTS BY LOCATION*

*Job losses at each location likely to be higher as Endeavour Energy have not announced the location of 30 "redeployees" and 41 voluntary redundancies.

Endeavour Energy employees face a sleepless night as they await the announcement of 120 job cuts that form part of the "first phase" of a total 254 job cuts at the publicly-owned electricity network company, which will be revealed tomorrow afternoon.

The Electrical Trades Union said the announcement was expected to involve the loss of positions based in Sydney’s south and west, Wollongong, the South Coast, Southern Highlands, Blue Mountains, and parts of the Central West.

Earlier this week the union wrote to government and opposition MPs whose electorates are impacted by the cuts, urging them to support a plan to save local jobs at the publicly-owned company.

The ETU 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 forced job cuts.

In the letter, the union called on MPs to make representations to Premier Mike Baird on behalf of local Endeavour Energy workers, raise the issue in party room meetings, and to make a public statement opposing these job cuts and supporting the retention of highly skilled front-line power jobs.

The correspondence also outlined how TransGrid, which operates the 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.

ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said Endeavour Energy workers have been told they will be notified tomorrow afternoon (Thursday 10 September) if they are among the first phase of job cuts, with the company also due to release a full list of which depots will suffer staffing reductions.

“Several thousand men and women will lay in bed tonight, unsure whether they will still have a job tomorrow, and how their families will survive if they are among those facing the chop,” Mr Betts said.

“This is the first round in what are devastating cuts on any scale and we are calling on all MP’s, whether from the government or opposition, to stand up and protect local jobs.”

The union will provide further comment tomorrow afternoon following the notification of Endeavour Energy workers.

Ausgrid management this afternoon revealed the locations of 553 job cuts, which will see more than one in every ten employees axed across Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

In a briefing to unions, Ausgrid confirmed that these cuts were in addition to 258 staff who had left voluntarily during the past two months, and that a further phase of 500 job cuts would take place later this year.

The Electrical Trade Union, which represent Ausgrid workers, said that the full scale of the cuts would mean that in just six months a quarter of the company’s workforce would be terminated.

The ETU expressed particular concern that alternative options to maintain employment had not been taken, and that the company appeared to be pressing ahead with forced redundancies for more than half of the cuts announced today.

The company revealed that, in addition to 146 staff who have previously been redeployed, there would be the following local job cuts: 145 in the City of Sydney, 82 in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, 74 in Sydney’s West, 47 on the North Shore and Northern Beaches, 32 on the Central Coast, and 27 in Sydney’s South.

ETU organiser Mark Buttigieg said the union had written to government and opposition MPs in electorates impacted by the cuts, urging them to support a plan to save local jobs at the publicly-owned electricity network company.

“It is extremely disappointing that Ausgrid management have failed to accept a range of union proposals that would result in a substantial reduction in the number of job cuts,” Mr Buttigieg said.

“We have provided details of these proposals — including roster changes, job sharing, expansion of non-regulated work, and a mix and match voluntary redundancy program — to MPs and urged them to make urgent representations to Premier Mike Baird on behalf of local Ausgrid workers.

“We have also called on them to publicly oppose these job cuts, support the retention of highly skilled front-line power jobs, and raise the alternatives to job cuts in their party room meetings.”

Mr Buttigieg said the correspondence also outlined how TransGrid, which operates the 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.

“Ausgrid management claim their hands are tied, that they need to cut these jobs, but it simply isn’t true,” he said.

“Transgrid has used very similar strategies to those suggested by the ETU to ensure not one job needs to be cut, despite having a similar reduction to their regulated revenue imposed by the Australian Energy Regulator.

“AER CEO Michelle Groves made the same point earlier this year, when she told a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry that: ‘We have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses’.”

Mr Buttigieg also pointed out that affected communities needed to understand that these cuts were just the first phase, with the final number of job losses likely to be double.

“Ausgrid have confirmed today that they expect to announce another wave of 500 job cuts by the end of the year,” Mr Buttigieg said.

“In total, with jobs cuts announced today and staff that have left over the last two months, that will mean a quarter of the company’s workforce gone.

“Not only will this have devastating impacts on many local communities, in with result in a reduction to services for consumers, slower responses following emergencies and natural disasters, and poorer maintenance.”

MEDIA COMMENT: Mark Buttigieg (Butta-gig) 0417 208 447 - in briefing & available after 1.15pm

 

AUSGRID JOB CUTS BY LOCATION*

*146 redeployees exist across the network and are in addition to specific location job losses. Above job cuts in ADDITION to 258 employees who exited the business via voluntary redundancy during the months of July/August 2015.

Thousands of Ausgrid employees face a sleepless night as they await the announcement of the first phase of 1102 job cuts at the publicly-owned electricity network company, which will be revealed tomorrow afternoon.

The Electrical Trades Union said the announcement would involve the loss of 600 full time positions based across Sydney, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, and the Central Coast.

The union has written to government and opposition MPs whose electorates are impacted by the cuts, urging them to support a plan to save local jobs at the publicly-owned electricity network company.

The ETU’s 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 forced job cuts.

In the letter, the union called on MPs to make representations to Premier Mike Baird on behalf of local Ausgrid workers, raise the issue in party room meetings, and to make a public statement opposing these job cuts and supporting the retention of highly skilled front-line power jobs.

The correspondence also outlined how TransGrid, which operates the 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.

ETU organiser Mark Buttigieg said Ausgrid workers had been told they will be notified tomorrow (Wednesday 9 September) if they are among the first phase of job cuts, with the company also due to release a full list of which depots will suffer staffing reductions.

“Several thousand men and women will lay in bed tonight, unsure whether they will still have a job tomorrow, and how their families will survive if they are among those facing the chop,” Mr Buttigieg said.

Mr Buttigieg criticised Ausgrid for pressing ahead with the announcement, despite an ongoing legal case that could impact the company’s ability to force staff to take redundancies.

“Last week the union appeared before the Fair Work Commission in relation to Ausgrid’s existing workplace agreement and sought a referral to the Federal Court to help clarify if the company could forcibly make workers redundant,” he said.

“It is disappointing that Ausgrid is pressing ahead with notifying staff that they will no longer have a job before awaiting the conclusion of a legal case which will have an impact on whether they are even able to force these 600 staff to take redundancies.”

Based on recent announcements by other publicly owned power companies, the ETU believes that there could be as many as 250 jobs cut from Newcastle and the Hunter, 250 or more from Northern, Eastern and Southern Sydney, and up to 100 on the Central Coast.

“Based on other recent job cuts, they are generally consistent with the size of the local workforce, meaning places like Newcastle, the Hunter and parts of Sydney will lose as many as 250 jobs in each region, while the Central Coast could lose 100 local jobs,” Mr Buttigieg said.

“This is the first round in what are devastating cuts on any scale and we are calling on all MP’s, whether from the government or opposition, to stand up and protect local jobs.”

The union will provide further comment tomorrow afternoon following the notification of Ausgrid workers.

Essential Energy management this afternoon revealed details of 700 job losses across rural and regional NSW, named 10 depots that will be shut down, and revealed an expansion of the “spill and fill” process that requires staff to reapply for their existing jobs.

Unions said they were particularly concerned by details of how staffing reductions would be managed, with many employees left in limbo for the next month before they find out whether they will be forced to relocate to a different town or lose their job.

In a briefing with unions, Essential Energy management revealed that 122 employees had already “exited” under the cuts, a further 166 were in the process of taking a voluntary redundancy, while a further 412 jobs would go, with many workers forced to wait until October 12 for confirmation of their fate.

Also named were 10 depots that will be closed in this round of cuts, with further closures expected to follow. The depots identified for closure were: Bonalbo, Woodburn, Coolah, Inglewood, Menindee, Bingara, Narrandera, Wentworth, Moama and Darlington Point.

Essential Energy was also accused of lying about the reason for the cuts, with today’s media statement saying: “These reductions are a consequence of the regulatory determination by the Australian Energy Regulator.”

This contradicts a statement by Australian Energy Regulator CEO Michelle Groves, who said: “We have not made decisions requiring particular staffing levels for these businesses.”

The unions also expressed concern that management at the publicly-owned regional electricity network were engaging in sham consultation, with workers reporting to unions that managers had today told them today that no matter what happens, their job will go.

The cuts are the latest phase in a total of 1,395 jobs Essential Energy is planing to axe across NSW. Another wave of 695 cuts is expected to be announced by the end of the year.

The Electrical Trades Union, which represent Essential Energy workers, said the treatment of workers whose jobs have been declared “unfunded” was particularly nasty, with as little as one week of transition training being provided before workers are forced to start using up their own annual leave and other entitlements.

“Almost 400 workers will become ‘redeployees’ under the plan, which we were today told means they will be provided with between one and four weeks of career transition training, then forced to go on leave — utilising whatever annual leave or long service leave entitlements they may have,” ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said.

“This treatment only worsens the distress being suffered by many staff, making an extremely challenging time that much harder.

“Even worse, many workers have been left in limbo after today being notified that their position is ‘potentially impacted’, but that they will need to wait until October 12 to find out if they will be relocated to another depot, either locally or elsewhere in the state, or made forcibly redundant.”

Mr Betts said it was also concerning that the “spill and fill” model would be expanded, with workers required to reapply for existing jobs through a process involving a process including psychometric assessment, selection criteria assessment, and an interview.

“Spill and fill is basically a brutal form of musical chairs, where management remove jobs and force existing workers to scramble for the reduced number that remain,” Mr Betts said.

“It is a process that shows complete disregard for the years of loyal service provided by workers, and pits them against each other in a desperate bid to keep their job.

“The fact that Essential Energy have today told employees that they can avoid this spill and fill process by putting their hand up for a voluntary redundancy is also particularly distressing, and is nothing short of blackmail.”

The ETU renewed their call for local MPs to do everything possible to defend local jobs.

“Last week we wrote to government and non government MPs with job losses in their electorate, asking for their urgent assistance to save local jobs,” Mr Betts said.

“So far just one National Party MP has agreed to meet with others claiming electricity workers campaigned against them in the recent election and there was little that they could do to help.

“We have presented a range of alternatives to the proposed mass sackings — similar to those used by Transgrid to avoid laying off any staff following their own revenue reduction from the Australian Energy Regulator — but Essential Energy management has refused them all.

“Local MPs often claim they support regional employment, but this is their chance to put those words into action.”

Mr McNamara said regional communities needed to understand that these cuts were just the first phase, with the final number of job losses likely to be double.

“Essential Energy have already said they expect to announce another wave of cuts, a total of 695 jobs, by the end of the year,” he said.

“That will mean more jobs gone, more depots closed, and more service reductions.”

MEDIA COMMENT: Neville Betts 0408 520 400

 

ESSENTIAL ENERGY JOB CUTS BY LOCATION*

 *288 employees have already left or are in the process of leaving the company through a voluntary redundancy program. A further 695 regional jobs will be cut before the end of the year.

Thousands of Essential Energy employees have gone to work today, unsure whether their jobs will exist this afternoon, the Electrical Trades Union has said.

Late yesterday, Essential Energy deputy chief executive officer Gary Humphreys emailed all staff at the publicly-owned electricity network company to tell them that they would be notified this afternoon (Tuesday 8 September) whether their position was among 700 jobs being cut.

ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said Essential Energy employees across rural and regional NSW had endured a sleepless night as they awaited notification about whether their position was being axed.

“Several thousand men and women lay in bed last night, unsure whether they would still have a job tonight, and how their families would survive,” Mr Betts said.

“Despite facing enormous stress about their future, they still turned up to work today to provide their usual quality service to the people of NSW.

“They are now counting down the hours until this afternoon’s announcement, completely in the dark about what their future may hold.”

The ETU also criticised the company for pressing ahead with the announcement, despite an ongoing legal case that could impact Essential Energy’s ability to force staff to take redundancies.

Unions last week appeared before the Fair Work Commission, in relation to Essential Energy’s existing workplace agreement and sought a referral to the Federal Court to help clarify if Essential Energy could forcibly make workers redundant.

“It is disappointing that Essential Energy is pressing ahead with notifying staff that they will no longer have a job before awaiting the conclusion of a legal case which will have an impact on whether they are even able to force these 700 staff to take redundancies,” 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. Management have so far rejected these proposals.”

The union said it would provide further comment this afternoon, once final details of the job cuts had been provided to workers.