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ETU Media Releases

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TransGrid sale to foreign owners and corporate tax avoiders shortchanges the people of NSW

Paul Lister - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The NSW Government has been accused of selling out the interests of electricity consumers and taxpayers following the announcement that electricity transmission company TransGrid has been sold to an 80 per cent foreign-owned consortium.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent workers at TransGrid, have raised serious concerns about the impact on consumers, the loss of long-term tax and dividends, and the corporate history of some of the companies in the winning consortium.

Among the purchasers is Spark Infrastructure, which already owns vast parts of the Victorian and South Australian power networks, where it has been responsible for rising prices, cuts to maintenance, and aggressive tax avoidance.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said research by the Tax Justice Network revealed that Spark had not paid a cent in company tax during the past decade, despite owning highly profitable monopoly assets.

“We don’t need to speculate about what the TransGrid privatisation will mean for tax revenues, because we’ve already seen what Spark have done in Victoria,” Mr Butler said.

“Prices have steadily risen for consumers, investment in infrastructure has crumbled, regional jobs have been slashed, and revenues that previously came to governments have completely dried up as the profits are aggressively shifted offshore.

“This consortium, which is made up of big banks, foreign governments and well-known tax avoiders, have just been handed the keys to the monopoly electricity transmission network that supplies power to the people of NSW.”

Mr Butler said the sale would have a negative impact on the NSW budget over the medium to long term.

“Since 2005, TransGrid have paid $2.4 billion to the NSW Government, money which has been used to fund infrastructure and essential services such as hospitals and schools,” he said.

“This sale puts an end to that sustainable, ongoing revenue stream, for a one off payment that is a fraction of the $10.26 billion price tag the Premier and Treasurer are crowing about today.”

Mr Butler went on to say the net proceeds of the sale would be around $7.3 billion after liabilities and sale costs were taken out leaving a measley net benefit of $1 billion for the people of NSW.

“In their most recent annual report, TransGrid’s regulated asset base alone was valued at $6.19 billion, meaning the state will be a measly $1 billion better off due to this privatisation — or the equivalent of four years of dividend payments,” he said.

“Given TransGrid paid $306.5 million in dividends and tax equivalency payments to the people of NSW last financial year alone, this is an incredibly poor outcome that future generations will pay for in the decades to come.”

Essential Energy workers win two month reprieve but face uncertain New Year.

Paul Lister - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Essential Energy employees who were told to no longer come to work earlier this month have received a two month reprieve, with the Fair Work Commission confirming that interim orders requiring the company to overturn that decision will continue until late December.

The FWC yesterday set down a hearing date of December 18 to finalise the case, with Commissioner Leigh Johns indicating that the final decision on whether Essential Energy can direct employees not to attend work will be delivered before Christmas.

Unions launched the legal challenge earlier this month after Essential Energy told more than 230 workers across regional NSW that they should no longer attend work from the following Monday.

The Electrical Trades Union said that the FWC’s interim orders, which prevented Essential Energy from directing employees not to attend work and required the company to provide “meaningful work” for those affected workers, would now continue for at least two months.

“Earlier this month, Essential Energy told more than 230 workers across the state that they were no longer to attend work, with just 72 hours’ notice,” Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler said.

“We immediately challenged that decision, arguing that it not only contravened the existing workplace agreement, but it also breached Essential Energy’s own redeployment policy.

“The FWC shared the concerns of unions, issuing interim orders that prevent Essential Energy from sending workers home.

“The matter will be arbitrated in the week before Christmas, providing a binding decision that will decide whether Essential Energy can direct these employees not to attend work.”

Mr Butler said that there remained ongoing concerns about Essential Energy segregating and ostracising employees, including by banning some staff from attending workplace meetings and telling them they are no longer to sit near colleagues.

“The ETU has serious concerns about the welfare of Essential Energy’s workforce as a result of the significant and sustained attack being carried out by management, with the support of the NSW Government,” he said.

“These actions seem to be part of a concerted effort to try to demoralise, bully and intimidate these workers into simply quitting their jobs.

“In more than 30 years as an advocate for workers I have never seen this kind of ruthless behaviour from an employer let alone a publicly owned and government operated company.

“Earlier this year it was revealed that publicly-owned power companies — including Essential Energy — had spent more than $5 million of taxpayer’s money on expensive lawyers to attack their own workers. From what we have seen in recent months, that figure is now likely approaching $10 million.”

The Fair Work Commission has also set aside a full week dedicated to bringing Essential Energy and unions together through a process of interest based bargaining in an attempt to resolve a range of workplace issues currently in dispute.

“The ETU is approaching this process with an open mind and we are hopeful that this intervention will provide the circuit breaker that the workers so desperately need.” said Mr Butler.

Fair Work Commission orders Essential Energy to reverse notice telling workers not to come in on Monday

Paul Lister - Friday, October 16, 2015

Regional employees put in limbo earlier this week after Essential Energy management told them to no longer come to work have had a major legal win, with the Fair Work Commission ordering the company to reverse the decision and find meaningful work for the staff.

The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent employees at the electricity network company, launched an urgent dispute before the industrial umpire, arguing the company had breached their legal obligations.

FWC senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger this afternoon issued an interim decision (see over page), ordering an immediate return to the status quo prior to the workers being told earlier this week that they were not to come to work from Monday.

The commission ordered that the employees, which the company described as “redeployees in unfunded positions”, be contacted no later than 3.15pm today and told that the direction to no longer come to work had been revoked.

It also ordered Essential Energy to provide “meaningful work placement” for the workers, as defined in the company’s own Management of Surplus Employees Policy.

The unions said the decision had vindicated their advice to workers that the company’s notice was a breach of the existing workplace agreement and should be ignored.

“This afternoon, the industrial umpire has ordered Essential Energy to immediately reverse its directive to these workers and advise them that they can continue to come to work and will be provided with meaningful work,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Our position — that Essential Energy had breached the workplace agreement and their own redeployment policy — has been vindicated.

“It is outrageous that a major employer, completely owned by the people of NSW, would treat its workforce in such a shameful manner.”

“Today’s decision by the industrial umpire is not only a win for essential energy workers but a win for all regional communities right across NSW.”

“We would now like to see local communities rally behind these workers and help fight to protect these valuable regional jobs.”

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said that the fight wasn’t over, but that the electricity sector unions would continue to stand up against Essential Energy’s attacks on regional workers.

“While these interim orders are a great first step, and provide legal certainty to our members when they turn up to work next Monday, the battle is far from over,” he said.

“We are still awaiting a decision of the Fair Work Commission — expected in the coming weeks — about whether Essential Energy will be able to introduce a policy allowing them to sack workers using forced redundancies.”

Media comment: Steve Butler 0414 877 679

Further information: Paul Lister 0408 231 858

Unions tell workers placed in limbo by Essential Energy to attend work on Monday; launch legal action

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 15, 2015

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.”

Essential Energy tells regional workers: “Don’t come Monday”

Paul Lister - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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.”

ETU takes Ausgrid and Essential Energy to Fair Work Commission in an attempt to stop mass sackings

Paul Lister - Friday, October 09, 2015

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.

Leaked Ausgrid briefing reveals management plan to axe apprentices, sell assets, close depots, and outsource jobs

Paul Lister - Saturday, September 26, 2015

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 reveals 120 jobs axed across Sydney, Illawarra, and Southern Highlands

Paul Lister - Thursday, September 10, 2015

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 workers face nervous wait ahead of announcement of job cuts tomorrow

Paul Lister - Wednesday, September 09, 2015

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 axes 553 jobs across Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast & Hunter Valley

Paul Lister - Wednesday, September 09, 2015

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.


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