Essential Energy management have suffered a crushing defeat after their proposed workplace agreement, which would have resulted in cuts to real wages and massive regional job losses, was overwhelmingly rejected by 87 per cent of their workforce.
The online ballot, initiated by management and carried out by Elections Australia, saw 2697 eligible Essential Energy employees vote, with 87 per cent — or 2347 workers — rejecting the proposal. Just 350 staff, or less than 13 per cent, were in support of the agreement.
The Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union, and Professional Australia, which represent Essential Energy employees, had urged members to vote against the management agreement, warning that it would lead to hundreds of forced job cuts across regional NSW and prevent the independent umpire from deciding the outcome.
After 18-months of failed negotiations, and a steadfast refusal by the company to allow the industrial umpire to intervene, Essential Energy management have now run out of alternatives and will be forced to accept the arbitrated decision of the Fair Work Commission.
Essential Energy’s proposed agreement sought to impose hundreds of forced redundancies, financial penalties for staff who refused to take voluntary redundancies, and bans on redundant employees applying for other jobs with the company for two years. It also provided just a single, 2.5 per cent pay increase, while cutting other conditions and entitlements.
“This week, Essential Energy employees have sent an unprecedented message,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.
“They will not accept massive regional job cuts, they will not accept cuts to their real wages, and they will certainly not accept the bullying behaviour of a management team who have simply refused to consider the needs of the workforce during 18 months of negotiations.
“This vote leaves the company with no choice but to finally accept the decision of the independent industrial umpire, which will hear the details of our arguments and impose a binding outcome that will provide certainty for Essential Energy workers and the communities they serve.”
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said the vote showed the resolve of Essential Energy workers had only grown in the face of unprecedented attacks on their jobs and employment conditions.
“For 18 months, Essential Energy management have been using every avenue available to them to try to force through a new workplace agreement that would allow them to forcibly cut hundreds of regional jobs and leave remaining staff financially worse off,” Mr Kelly said.
“There is no doubt in our minds that this unprecedented anti-worker agenda was being driven by the Baird Government — which is the only explanation for the total silence of local Liberal and National Party MPs about the threat of massive job cuts in their local communities.
“The power has now been taken out of management’s hands, with the independent industrial umpire finally able to hear all sides of the argument and make a final decision to bring this dispute to an end.”