Electricity, Water and Utilities

Ausgrid Update - 21 December

Posted on 21-12-2016

Dear Colleague,

As you would no doubt be aware, on 1 December 2016 Ausgrid was leased by the state government to a consortium consisting of IFM and Australian Super. Since then information regarding the new owners has been virtually non-existent despite numerous representations by the ETU for more detailed information and a request for a delegates meeting to brief our members on the issue.

Yesterday the matter was escalated by the ETU to a hearing at the Fair Work Commission in a bid to clarify the issues and avoid further delays. The hearing was presided over by Senior Deputy President Hamberger and the following matters were raised and discussed;

As of 1 December 2016 all employees of Ausgrid were transferred to a new entity known as Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd, the ETU argued that this had not been clearly and formally communicated to all employees and the Unions. SDP Hamberger questioned if Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd had advised the Fair Work Commission of these changes in ownership as he was unaware as to whether they had done so.

Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd.’s view is that as a result of the transfer of ownership, employer representational rights letters need to be reissued to employees before EBA bargaining can re-commence. The ETU raised concerns regarding the lack of ongoing consultation from the new management team. 

The ETU’s concern is that Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd’s position will create further delays in bargaining. This delay would be exacerbated should we have to conduct another protected action ballot to restore our ability to take protected industrial action during the negotiations. Prior to our dispute at the FWC it seems Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd was in no hurry to recommence negotiations.

The ETU argued at the FWC that in order to avoid further delays in bargaining, a meeting should be held as early as possible in January 2017 and that representational rights should be issued ASAP if that is the legal requirement.

Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd has now responded to the ETU requests in the attached correspondence from Richard Gross to Steve Butler. Now that Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd has provided the answers sought by the ETU, we are seeking legal opinion prior to moving forward in a bid to restart negotiations as soon as possible.

Click here to read the correspondence from Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross to the ETU.

In Unity
Mark Buttigieg

Working in Heat

Posted on 13-12-2016

Weather forecasters are predicting that temperatures will be in excess of 38*C across NSW while the ACT is expected to reach temperatures exceeding 33*C.

All members should be aware of the dangers of heat stress please follow the links below for further information from SafeWork NSW on working in heat.

SAFEWORK NSW HEAT RELATED ILLNESS

SAFEWORK NSW HOT & COLD ENVIRONMENTS

SAFEWORK NSW MANAGING THE WORK ENVIRONMENT CODE OF PRACTICE

ETU members should take appropriate action depending on your individual health and work situation, including but not limited to taking regular breaks, conducting individual (personal) risk assessment and/or ceasing work completely.

Members should exercise extreme care as temperatures rise. If you have any questions about working in heat please contact your workplace delegate or ETU organiser.

In unity,

Dave McKinley - Deputy Secretary

 

There has been an incident in South Australia involving injuries to an employee that occurred as a result of a failure of an EWP.
 
A knuckle on an 18M GMJ EWP failed while the employee was aloft. The employee suffered a broken leg and other injuries.

The EWP was at working height (9m) when the top knuckle pin dislodged, the bucket fell back to its rest position (about 2.5m) with the worker and tools in the bucket. This bucket is 8 years old and had not undergone major rebuilds. 

The pin retaining device appears to have failed. The fulcrum on GMJ EWPS are covered by a shroud and cannot be seen during start up inspections. 

SA Safe Work is investigating and all similar EWPs have been removed from service.

All similar EWPs should be removed from service until such times as members can be assured of their safe operation.

Specifically, and in addition to all other prestart checks, members are to physically check fulcrum pins and pin retaining devices on all similar EWPs prior to any use.

Since the Liberal/Nationals came to government in 2011, Essential Energy has slashed 1,400 regional jobs – 789 Voluntary Redundancy – with the rest coming from retirement and resignations. They have reduced the number of Essential Energy locations across the state from 147 to 100, and despite the company making a $1.2 million loss in the last financial year, Essential Energy PAID THE NSW GOVERNMENT A $28.1 MILLION DIVIDEND!

Analysis of the Essential Energy Annual Report reveals that the better than expected result in 2015-16 has been attributed to:

“… reduced operating costs, particularly in the area of employee costs, contractor expenses and plant costs. The lower employee costs were a result of lower than budgeted employees during the year.”

On top of revealing an addiction to dividends, the Annual Report, quietly tabled on the last sitting day of the NSW Parliament, revealed that Essential Energy executives all received big pay rises over the 2015-16 financial year with the smallest pay increase for the executive team being 4.1% or a $14,000 pay rise in a single year!

The combined executive increases for the top five earners totaled almost $300,000 which, for a company that is implementing hundreds of job cuts, is nothing short of double standards and betrayal by those that lead your organisation.

Leading the pack was Gary Humphries who pocketed an increase of $219,622 according to Essential Energy’s annual reports for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 financial years, representing an increase of more than 40% while others including Luke Jenner, David Nardi & Caroline Hungerford who all pocketed increases of between $14,000 and $24,550 or between 4.1% - 7.8% in the last year.

These executive pay rises, along with the hefty government dividend, could have been used to fund frontline workers and keep hundreds of people employed but Essential Energy has chosen to distribute almost $300,000 in spoils to just half a dozen people.

The ETU is calling on these overpaid executives to return this money to the company in order to minimise jobs losses. We say put your money where your mouth is – you say you are sorry about the cuts – now show that you are sorry through your actions.

When these people next visit your depot on their “roadshow” be sure to remember that they accepted massive pay increases while at the same time finding ways to put you and your workmates out of a job.

In Unity,
Dave McKinley
Deputy Secretary

NSW Labor today called on the new owners of Ausgrid to publicly commit to the five year employment guarantees as was the intention of the NSW Parliament.

Labor’s Shadow Energy spokesman, Adam Searle, said this morning that if IFM Investors and Australian Super move to introduce forced redundancy during the employment guarantee period (up to 30 June 2020) or fail to honour the intent of the job protection legislation, Labor will move to establish an Upper House inquiry into the company’s actions.

This latest development could prove embarrassing for the new owners if they push ahead with redundancies by exploiting potential loopholes in Fred Niles and Mike Bairds legislation. An Upper House inquiry has the power to call any person as a witness including board members, management, politicians and representatives of workers.

While the ETU remains hopeful that things will not get to this point, today’s action and commitment from Labor is welcomed by the ETU.

Members will no doubt be hearing from the new owners over the coming weeks and we encourage you to ask the difficult questions on their future plans for the business.

The ETU is ready to work with the new owners and their management team to secure a fair agreement that recongnises the needs of workers and delivers secure employment with wage increases. We are also keen to explore new opportunities, including new technology and contestable work, to expand the business into the future.

We hope to be able to provide further substance to members in the coming weeks and months.

In Unity
Dave McKinley

Yesterday I met with the Deputy Premier John Barilaro regarding the Fair Work Commission determination and the impact this will have on regional jobs across NSW. During the meeting I advised the Deputy Premier that the ETU will act in the interest of our members to minimise any impact of job losses.

Mr Barilaro gave no commitment that he would intervene to stop the job losses but I did advise him that the the ETU would campaign vigorously against any cuts. The Deputy Premier gave an undertaking to go away and talk to Essential Energy management to find out exactly what the company’s “real” plans are in relation to the actual number of positions to be targeted between now and 2019.

During the meeting I outlined opportunities that exist for Essential Energy to minimise jobs losses by returning work in-house from contractors and to expand into contestable areas, an approach that would keep people employed and generate additional revenue and profit for the company. The Deputy Premier gave me an undertaking that he would raise these issues with management.

Our priority is to secure as many jobs as possible for ETU members, through whatever means necessary and to minimse the impact of the Fair Work Commission ruling.

I believe that a commitment from the company to halt outsourcing, return work in-house and an expansion of the business into contestable areas, not only makes sense, but will reduce the impact on ETU members and regional NSW.

Essential Energy already have the employees and equipment to do this work and this is the policy that the ETU will pursue on your behalf. We will work cooperatively with the government and management if it means saving jobs at Essential Energy.

I want to thank ETU members for their solid commitment over the past two years – without this members would be much worse off - the feedback we are getting loud and clear across the network is that no-one trusts current management but we will continue to actively push for decisions and policies that see work return to Essential Energy and the company take advantage of expansion opportunities.

Finally, during this time I ask all members to look out for each other, a decision has been handed down and as we move into the Christmas Period we want everyone to be able to spend quality time with your family and friends.

In Unity,
Dave McKinley
Deputy Secretary