Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

47 questions ETU put to Ausgrid on proposal to massively increase contracting out

Peter Moss - Thursday, July 02, 2020
1. Ausgrid is required under clause 41 of the EA to demonstrate that peak workloads cannot be met by Ausgrid's workforce including reasonable overtime? Please provide evidence of peak workloads requiring work to be outsourced.
2. Ausgrid is required under clause 41 to demonstrate if there is specific expertise, not available in Ausgrid's workforce, be outsourcing work to contractors. Please identify specific expertise Ausgrid employees do not have to carry out the proposed work to be outsourced.
3  Ausgrid is required under clause 41 to demonstrate the use of outsourcing or contracting out the work is commercially the most advantageous option considering safety, quality, performance, and cost. Please demonstrate how contractors are advantageous in each specific area -safety, quality, performance, and cost.
4. The persons covered by clause 41 of the Agreement including relevant work groups/employees may, via the consultative process in the Agreement, utilise external benchmarking prior to market testing to permit internal efforts to improve efficiencies and become more competitive. When will Ausgrid provide the external benchmarking to the consultative group and Unions?
5 When will Ausgrid look at internal efforts to improve efficiencies and become more competitive?
6 . Will Ausgrid provide the consultative group and Unions any expressions of interest or tenders if advertised and consider timing to provide the employees with an opportunity to submit a conforming expression of interest or tender?
7 . During rebalancing last year, after making 353 employees redundant, Ausgrid stated redundancies were needed as there had been a significantly reduction in peak workloads. What has changed to now propose to increase the use of contractors for overhead maintenance and construction?
8 . This proposal is indicative of a desire to move Ausgrid to a contract management company, is this the case? If not, then why can no assurances be put to paper that there is job security for current staff?
9 . How can Ausgrid justify increasing contractors now when there is still a plan to make a further 250 employees redundant in 2021 and a further 250 in 2022?
1 0 . There are lots of examples that Ausgrid is under utilising its own workforce giving employees menial tasks. Different depots are booking that time differently i.e. some book as unproductive time, some book against a bogus work order as productive time. Please provide the monthly reports / indicators that show productive time and unproductive time for each depot that has been booked.
11 . How does Ausgrid currently measure workloads, work completion and efficiency for overhead Maintenance and construction?
12 . Can Ausgrid provide current those figures? 

13 . What has been the total expenditure of the existing contracts?
14 . What budgets do these contact costs come out of, OPEX or CAPEX?
15 . What has been the yearly cost for each of the Existing Outsourced Overhead Services - 

16. How many Ausgrid FTE's would have been saved by utilising that money spent on contractors instead of making permanent employees redundant?
17. Ausgrid have been including contactors as FTE's in their minimum employee numbers reporting to Ipart. What were the total contractor figures used in each of the ipart reports throughout 2019 & 2020?
18. What is the estimated dollar value of the new proposed contracts?
19. How many Ausgrid FTE positions could be saved / created instead of awarding contractors' contracts?
20. Does Ausgrid have current analysis on costings and efficiencies comparisons between Ausgrid and contractors? Please provide. 

21. Skills shortage tasks (tower refurbishment) has the ability to be brought back in house through training, how is this not a more practical approach to an evident problem?

22. Ausgrid has proposed to include running of new aerial conductors by contractors, given that there have been numerous occasions where contractors have ignored cable indications (ABC) and only checked phasing rather than correct identification as well as phasing could create significant problems particularly during storm events. How would Ausgrid ensure excellence in delivery from contractors? 

23. How would the outsourcing of defect rectification works apply when most defects requiring rectification come from contract delivered works (excluding the aged/weathered assets)? 

24. Can Ausgrid provide the numbers of defect rectifications that are caused by poor contractor work?
25. Why hasn't Ausgrid kept its workforce to a level that can maintain its own network assets safely?
26. How can Ausgrid justify the continued reduction of permanent numbers in Field Services and Tech Ops and increase contracting and outsourcing given the number of serious incidents including two fatalities in recent years?
27. Why is VOC training requirements for contractors not to the same level and scrutiny as Ausgrid workers returning to live work?
28. Can you provide evidence that the VOC training requirements for contractors are equivalent too or of a higher standard than the requirements and scrutiny of Ausgrid's field staff returning to live LV procedures?
29. Who will be the Principal Contractor on these contracts? Ausgrid or the Contractor?
30. Will Ausgrid remain the PCBU as you will be engaging the contractor and have responsibilities under the WHS ACT 2017? 
31. Who will be Contract supervisors for each proposed contract?
32. How will Ausgrid ensure these contractors will not then subcontracted out which undermines provisions of clause 41? i.e. ensuring they comply with appropriate safety standards, environmental standards, quality standards, appropriate industrial relations policies and practices to a level commensurate with the Ausgrid standards?
33. How can Ausgrid justify asking staff to take extra leave etc then increase the scope and number of tasks performed by contractors? 

34. We find it quite ironic that Ausgrid have outsourced (Pegasus) the policing and verification of competency of contractors, more money wasted.

35. Ausgrid could save millions of dollars by doing away with contracting altogether and moving staff from contract works to design and engineering arms of the business to increase work output to be delivered to the field services arm. 

36. In the first consultation (Dial In) it was stated that that this consultation is independent of any other transformation programs, we argue that it is directly bound to the assurances given at the restructuring committee that contracting out was not an avenue Ausgrid would pursue after current contracts ran out. Ausgrid argued and distributed material that Ausgrid as a network business would "simply perform less work" requiring a smaller workforce. To say we are now too far behind to complete works ourselves indicates Ausgrid is either lying/hiding figures or there is pressure from external parties to renew contracts. 

37. What services suit external companies? If there is a need for a certain service, then training should be the first priority to deliver these services. 

38. Why would Ausgrid want to waste money/potentially waste money on a theory that end to end delivery by external contractors could deliver positive project outcomes when we have proven positive outcomes internally? 

39. We are very concerned that "testing market capabilities " is very important to Ausgrid, this appears to be a business that wants to win the Tour de France without pedalling a bike (reap benefits of owning a distribution network without the outlays of staffing overheads to maintain it).

40. The contracts for tower refurbishment were put in place in 2016, between then and now there has been plenty of time to train under-utilised staff in performing this task (knowing these contracts would eventually expire). Why has training not been given any thought or priority given considering the amount of time Ausgrid has had to develop its business to maximise efficiency unless its goal is purely to outsource.

41. It was evident in the first consultation meeting that different arms of Ausgrid have not been talking to each other (at least no transparency on staff utilisation). Should Ausgrid not at least find out what its own capabilities are before heading down a path of preparing contracts for works that might not even be there?

42. Ausgrid have expressed that they need these contracts in place at the expiration of old contracts, why is there a rush? If there is no works for a contractor to perform then there is going to be no urgency for a contracting company to mobilise a workforce in a major event.

43. It was mentioned that Ausgrid need these contracts to deliver adequate response in major events, how much would a contract to 'stand by' cost the company? Also, what kind of 'reserve' numbers are we looking at having contractors deploy? 

44. Given the unpredictability of major events (could be the entirety of contract without one) what level of work would be guaranteed to a contractor (if zero I would think their 'stand by' fee would be astronomical) to ensure they had the required amount of staff to ably assist Ausgrid staff in such events? 

45. For Contractors to work on the network they are required to hold current mandatory training requirements. Ausgrid's training section has been decimated in previous restructures and the recent C0VID19 has seen class sizes dramatically reduced and cross contamination across regions has restricted people travelling out of area for training. How does Ausgrid propose to train contractors given that some of the training requirements are in house only? 

46. Ausgrid recently extended its grace period for expired quals to three months as they cannot keep up with the demand for its internal staff. How will Ausgrid train external contractors?

47. Has Ausgrid talked to their workforce about how to do more in house? Poor communication and poor planning have meant the workers being underutilized have many suggestions for improvements in efficiencies but are not being heard or worse, ignored. Workers are ready and willing to work to reduce backlog of works, including working alternate hours, overtime, training to enable multiskilling for work outside their classification or day to day role etc. to prevent the need for overflow works. These are all things that Ausgrid management could be doing and thinking for themselves about how to run an efficient and productive business by maximising the in house work by their highly skilled workforce.