ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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ETU vindicated as Tribunal confirms Australian Energy Regulator got it wrong on power pricing

Paul Lister - Friday, February 26, 2016

The Australian Energy Regulator is being urged to strike a better balance between affordability, reliability and safety after the Australian Competition Tribunal today ruled there were flaws in the modelling and assumptions used to set NSW power prices required the process to be conducted again.

The Electrical Trades Union, which represent the workers that maintain and operate the state’s electricity network, said the decision vindicated their argument that massive cuts imposed by the AER were wrong and would negatively impact on service delivery and network reliability.

ETU secretary Steve Butler urged the AER to take a more sensible approach when remaking their determination, with a greater emphasis on striking a balance between price, safety and reliability.

“The people of NSW don’t just need an affordable energy supply, they need one that is reliable, well-maintained and safe,” Mr Butler said.

“Unsustainably slashing the money spent on maintaining, repairing and operating the network simply leads to inadequate infrastructure that may spark bushfires, fail in periods of extreme weather, or result in a growing number of blackouts and service disruptions.”

Mr Butler also hit out at Opposition Leader Luke Foley over his support for the flawed AER process.

“Luke Foley simply has no idea when it comes to delivering an affordable, safe and reliable electricity network that best serves the interests of the people of NSW,” he said.

Steve Butler also said the decision should now force a rethink of the significant job cuts being pursued by Essential Energy, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.

“Thousands of proposed job cuts being pursued by the publicly-owned electricity companies Essential Energy, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, were based on the flawed AER determination and should now be abandoned,” Mr Butler said.

“The loss of loyal, highly-skilled workers across the state is short-sighted and will inevitably impact on consumers through poorer services in the future.”

The decision by the Tribunal includes an order that the AER go back to the drawing board and remake their operating expenditure decision using a broader range of modelling and benchmarking using a "bottom up" approach.

That ruling aligned with the findings of an extensive independent review — commissioned by the ETU and conducted by economist Thomas Devlin —  that identified serious flaws in the AER’s modelling and assumptions including:

  • the use of customer density instead of line length;
  • a failure to breakdown operating expenditure into subcomponents, making it impossible to credibly identify potential drivers of inefficiency;
  • an over-emphasis on labour costs, based on questionable research;
  • a simplistic approach to asset life when comparing networks; and
  • relying on benchmarking rather than a ‘bottom up’ approach considering process and structure.

You can read Thomas Devlin's report and findings here.

Premier urged to send NSW power workers to Fiji to assist with recovery efforts following Cyclone Winston

Paul Lister - Monday, February 22, 2016

The Electrical Trades Union this morning wrote to Premier Mike Baird urging him to send a team of NSW power workers to Fiji to assist with restoring electricity services after the island nation was devastated by Cyclone Winston on the weekend.

The union identified more than two hundred highly trained employees from Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy that management at the publicly owned electricity network companies have recently withdrawn from frontline work after classifying them as “excess to requirements” or “redeployees”.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said NSW was in a unique position of being able to quickly deploy a team to assist in the rebuilding and repair of Fiji’s electricity network.

“The fact is that once power is restored, other recovery efforts can take place more quickly,” Mr Butler said.

“The publicly owned NSW electricity companies currently have the resources available. All that is required is the political will to accept volunteers from the workforce to travel to Fiji.”

Mr Butler said recent decisions by management at the NSW electricity network companies had left many employees sitting in depots without work to do despite local maintenance backlogs and that these workers could be easily and quickly deployed.

“Many of these workers have simply been told to sit in the depot and not interact with other staff despite local maintenance backlogs,” he said.

“A large number of them would happily volunteer to assist the people of Fiji.

“Not only would that benefit our Pacific neighbour as it attempts to repair a ravaged electricity network and restore power, but it would allow these highly skilled workers to get back to work.”

The union pointed to the response to Cyclone Tracey in 1974, when a team of NSW power workers travelled to Darwin to assist local crews with the mammoth task of reconstruction.

“Assistance may be required from the Commonwealth to liaise with the Fiji Government in order to establish the exact number of power workers and the type of skills that they require, as well as some logistical support, but I would be shocked if such an offer wasn’t welcomed with open arms,” Mr Butler said.

“The ETU has identified how our members are able to assist, but at the end of the day we need to await a response from the Premier.

“Once we get the green light the ETU is ready to work quickly with the NSW Government and the Commonwealth to get these crews in place.”

Mr Butler also suggested that airlines may be able to assist, with relatively empty flights heading to Fiji to accommodate the many Australians wanting to return home.

“If the Premier picks up the phone to some of the airlines, hotels and Canberra there will almost certainly be offers of assistance to get these crews’ to Fiji, and have them fed and accommodated.” he said.

A copy of the ETU's letter to Premier Baird can be viewed here.

NSW Electricity Network will struggle in hot conditions

Paul Lister - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

As NSW gears up for a period of hot weather the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has raised concerns over the NSW Electricity Network’s ability to cope in what will be forty degree days as we approach the middle of summer.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler said that cuts to staffing levels and a reduction in network investment by the NSW Government have left the network vulnerable to periods of high demand like those presented this week with extremely hot weather forecast.

“What we have brewing is the perfect storm where the Baird Government has drastically cut investment in the NSW electricity network over the past 18 months while at the same time they have sacked more than one thousand frontline electricity workers across the state.” said Steve Butler.

“When the mercury rises to levels around forty degrees and above what we see is thousands of businesses and households crank up their air conditioner which puts and enormous amount of pressure of the electricity network as the demand for power peaks.”

“In the past the electricity network has coped well during these extreme weather periods but we now hold serious concerns about the Network’s ability to cope due to cuts to investment and massive staff reductions.” said Mr Butler.

“In the past year alone Ausgrid have slashed 879 electricity workers while Endeavour Energy has cut 155 staff and regional network operator Essential Energy has axed more than 350 regional jobs”

“Coupled with frontline staff cuts is a reduction of almost $500 million in network investment in the past year meaning the network we had twelve months ago is expected to cope with the demands of today.”

“The feedback from electricity workers is that the network is not in good shape and recent cuts to staff numbers and investment is having a material effect.” Mr Butler said.

“So today we are simply warning members of the public not to be surprised if the air conditioner stops working or your refrigerator is blacked out because we believe the decision of the Baird Government to cut staff numbers and slash network investment will come home to bite the general public at some time.”

“On top of these cuts, last year the NSW Government quietly reduced the amount of compensation customers can claim in the event of prolonged blackouts to a measly $80 per year but only when certain circumstances are met.”

“When your air conditioner, refrigerator and lights go out this summer remember to thank Mike Baird and his government for the deep cuts they have made to the NSW electricity sector but don’t bother emailing because your computer and internet connection will probably not be working.” Mr Butler finished.

Essential Energy executives paid generous bonuses while front-line jobs slashed across regional NSW

Paul Lister - Monday, December 21, 2015

Executives at publicly-owned electricity network operator Essential Energy received almost $4 million, including generous bonuses of up to $72,000, at the same time they were claiming challenging financial conditions left them with no choice but to axe 700 regional jobs and reduce services for consumers.

The company’s annual report, quietly released this month, also revealed that after tax profits for the last financial year were $266.3 million, while the company paid a total of $248.8 million to the NSW Government.

Essential Energy chief operating officer Gary Humphries took home the most generous package, with his wage and bonuses totalling $544,731, in addition to superannuation and other benefits.

Ten executives at the company received a total of almost $4 million, with base wages of $3,522,747, while seven pocketed a share of $303,910 in bonuses. The ranks of senior management also swelled by more than ten per cent, going from 138 the year before to 153.

The revelations came as Essential Energy management on Friday told employees they would be forced to use accrued annual and long service leave, whether or not they wished to, to help the company save money.

The Electrical Trades Union slammed the culture of executive greed, saying it was extraordinary that at the same time apprentice programs were being axed, regional depots closed, 700 jobs cut, and employees were being forced to use up leave entitlements, management were pocketing such huge salaries.

“Essential Energy is meant to be a publicly owned company delivering an essential service to vast parts of NSW,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Instead, it is being run as a profit-making machine, with the NSW Government gouging $270.8 million from the electricity bills of homeowners and small businesses, while senior management take home huge salaries and massive bonuses.

“The community was told Essential Energy had no choice but to slash jobs and services because of the financial challenges it faced, yet now we see that those cuts were only necessary because the Baird Government and the individual executives have been lining their pockets.

“What is even more disturbing is that this executive management team and their actions have been supported whole-heartedly by the NSW Government, including local MP’s from the Liberal and National parties.

“These are the actions of a company and executive team that are totally out of touch with the communities they are meant to serve, and quite frankly completely out of touch with the expectations of voters about how publicly-owned utilities should behave.”

Click here to read a full copy of the Essential Energy 2014-15 Annual Report.

Endeavour Energy executives receive generous bonuses while front-line jobs slashed

Paul Lister - Monday, December 21, 2015

Executives at publicly-owned electricity network operator Endeavour Energy received almost $4.6 million, including bonuses of up to $165,474, at the same time they claimed challenging financial conditions left them with no choice but to axe 120 jobs across Sydney, the Illawarra, and Southern Highlands.

The company’s annual report, quietly released this month, also revealed that after tax profits for the last financial year were $243.6 million, while the company paid a total of $270.8 million to the NSW Government.

In addition to superannuation and other benefits, Endeavour Energy chief executive officer Vince Graham’s wage and bonuses totalled $953,444, while chief operating officer Rod Howard was paid $558,147.

In total, executives at the company received almost $4.5 million, with base wages of $3,857,176 along with $443,222 in bonuses.

The Electrical Trades Union slammed the culture of executive greed, saying it was extraordinary that at the same time apprentice programs were being axed and 120 jobs cut, management were pocketing huge salaries and annual bonuses that were much larger than most employees’ total salaries.

“Endeavour Energy is meant to be a publicly owned company delivering an essential service to millions of people in Wollongong, the Southern Highlands, Blue Mountains and much of Sydney,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Instead, it is being run as a profit-making machine, with the NSW Government gouging $270.8 million from the electricity bills of homeowners and small businesses, while senior management take home huge salaries and massive bonuses.

“The community was told Endeavour Energy had no choice but to slash jobs and services because of the financial challenges it faced, yet now we see that those cuts were only necessary because the Baird Government and the individual executives have been lining their pockets.

“What is even more disturbing is that this executive management team and their actions have been supported whole-heartedly by the NSW Government, including local Liberal and National Party MPs.

“These are the actions of a company and executive team that are totally out of touch with the communities they are meant to serve, and quite frankly completely out of touch with the expectations of voters about how publicly-owned utilities should behave.”

Click here to read a copy of the Endeavour Energy 2014-15 Annual Report.

Ausgrid executives receive generous bonuses while front-line jobs slashed

Paul Lister - Monday, December 21, 2015

Executives at publicly-owned electricity network operator Ausgrid received almost $3.5 million, including bonuses of up to $71,500, at the same time they claimed challenging financial conditions left them with no choice but to axe 553 jobs and reduce services for Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast and Hunter customers.

The company’s annual report, quietly released this month, also revealed that after tax profits for the last financial year were $420.1 million, while the company paid a total of $589.7 million to the NSW Government.

In addition to superannuation and other benefits, Ausgrid chief operating officer Trevor Armstrong’s wage and bonuses totalled $547,717, while fellow executive John Hardwick was paid $502,256. In total, executives at the company received almost $3.5 million, with base wages of $3,036,834 along with $443,222 in bonuses.

The Electrical Trades Union slammed the culture of executive greed, saying it was extraordinary that at the same time apprentice programs were being axed and more than 550 jobs cut, management were pocketing huge salaries and annual bonuses that were larger than many employees’ total salaries.

“Ausgrid is meant to be a publicly owned company delivering an essential service to millions of people in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, the Central Coast, and much of Sydney,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Instead, it is being run as a profit-making machine, with the NSW Government gouging $589.7 million from the electricity bills of homeowners and small businesses, while senior management take home huge salaries and massive bonuses.

“The community was told Ausgrid had no choice but to slash jobs and services because of the financial challenges it faced, yet now we see that those cuts were only necessary because the Baird Government and the individual executives have been lining their pockets.

“What is even more disturbing is that this executive management team and their actions have been supported whole-heartedly by the NSW Government, including local Liberal and National Party MPs.

“These are the actions of a company and executive team that are totally out of touch with the communities they are meant to serve, and quite frankly completely out of touch with the expectations of voters about how publicly-owned utilities should behave.”

Click here to read the full 2014-15 Ausgrid Annual Report.

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.”

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

Paul Lister - Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Electrical Trades Union is today appearing before the Fair Work Commission to argue against the introduction of policies by publicly-owned power companies Ausgrid and Essential Energy that would allow them to forcibly sack 2,500 workers across NSW.

FWC president Justice Ian Ross, who is presiding over the hearing, will determine whether the ETU and other unions have grounds to take the matter to the Federal Court to seek a binding interpretation of key components of the current enterprise agreement.

The union said the outcome of today’s hearing would determine the course of subsequent legal action, but that it was just one of many steps that are being taken to try to stop what will be devastating job cuts across NSW.

ETU deputy secretary Neville Betts said the union met with Premier Mike Baird in June, as well as presenting a range of alternative options to management at both of the companies, in an attempt to minimise the need for any job losses.

“Power sector unions seem to be the only people interested in future-proofing our electricity network by retaining specialised, highly-skilled electricity jobs across NSW,” 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.

“To date, management have rejected the proposals put forward by the unions while the Premier told representatives from the ETU in June that the Government would not expand these businesses in order to keep people employed.

“We believe it is every member of parliament’s responsibility to ensure these public companies at least consider every available option to minimise jobs losses, particularly in regional NSW.

“It is disappointing that we have been forced to take costly legal action in order to protect jobs while management, presumably supported by the government, argue in favour of sacking 2,500 workers.”