Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Essential Energy Combined Union EBA Comparison

Paul Lister - Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Last Monday the Fair Work Commission ruled to terminate the protected action period for the ETU and in doing so triggered an automatic 21-day bargaining period which is to be followed by automatic arbitration if agreement cannot be reached between the company and its employees during the 21-day period.

This decision has strengthened the position of all unions and their members by potentially taking the decision making process out of managements hands. Members now have the greatest chance of securing the best possible outcome by advancing our arguments with the Fair Work Commission.

However, this is not stopping your hostile management from having one final crack at getting their anti-worker agenda through by way of a management initiated ballot set to take place between 4 - 9 June. Additionally, Essential Energy management are doing everything possible to avoid arbitration.

Members should remember that throughout this whole process it has been you and your union that have offered concessions, Essential Energy management have moved very little, if at all in their winner takes all approach to slashing hundreds of jobs and cutting conditions that have been fought for and won by previous generations.

In order to assist members, the combined unions have compiled a comparison of what management are proposing and what this proposal means in practical terms and in plain English. On the following pages you will find information that explains what management are proposing and the impact these changes will have on workers if this agreement is supported.


Every single union member at Essential Energy should be congratulated for your unwavering solidarity and commitment to a fair collective outcome. We cannot let this commitment fail us at this late stage in the process – talk to your workmates and make sure everyone understands the importance of voting no in the upcoming ballot.

If you have any questions, please direct these to your workplace delegate or respective union organiser who will be able to assist you further.




1.13 Consultation and Communication  

A consultation plan must be agreed at the first meeting including setting a reasonable timeframe for completion of the consultation process steps.  

If no consultation plan is agreed at the first meeting, the consultation process must be completed within 28 days of the first meeting.

Clause reduces employee’s current rights. 

Means that EE will be able to propose changes that have significant effect on workers, including the use of more contractors to replace permanent workers, and the company will be able to proceed with changes after 28 days regardless of the level of consultation.

1.15 Dispute Resolution Procedure  

Delete current clause  

Insert the model dispute resolution procedure clause in line with the Fair Work Act 2009 which includes removal of the status quo provisions.  

Limits disputes to matters arising under the Agreement or the NES.


Removes Status Quo, Reduces employee rights. 

Unilaterally removes the status quo provision out of disputes which means that EE can propose changes and discuss them for 28 days (or not) and then implement the change.  

Once the change is proposed your Union can dispute it but not having status quo means that EE can implement as it sees fit and your Union can take the dispute to Fair Work but while the dispute is not resolved then managements changes will apply.       

2.3.6 Minimum Payment for Recall to Work Overtime  

The minimum payment for recall to work overtime is reduced from a minimum four hours to two hours pay at overtime rates.

Reduces pay for employee’s. 

Reduces the minimum payment for recall to work overtime by 2 hours (remember this is multiplied by the appropriate penalty rate)

2.2.4 Number of Employee On Call and Call Out Arrangements  

Reflecting the change in clause 2.3.6 that the minimum payment for a call out is 2 hours (reduced from 4)

Reduces pay for employee’s. 

Reduces the minimum payment for on call / call out by 2 hours (remember this is multiplied by the appropriate penalty rate)

3.6 Redundancy  

Insert new clause.  

This allows for Essential Energy to implement involuntary redundancies.  

The Company will not make more than 250 roles per annum involuntarily redundant (that is 250 roles in the period 1 July 2016 to 1 July 2017; and 250 roles in the period 1 July 2017 to 1 July 2018).  

After this date, there will be no restriction on the number of FTEs which may be made redundant.


Potentially uncapped redundancy provision. 

This will allow large numbers of employees to be made redundant. Don’t be fooled by the company’s tricky wording. 250 is not the total number of redundancies in any year this is the number of forced redundancies, voluntary redundancies are not included in this figure. 

For example, if the agreement is supported, there might be 250 voluntary redundancies in a year then THERE COULD ALSO BE AN ADDITIONAL 250 forced redundancies for that same year taking the total to 500 redundancies.  

Over three years Essential Energy could effectively gut the organisation and at the end of the agreement there would be an unfettered right to make all remaining employees redundant if management choose to.   

3.6.1 Redundancy Payments  

Insert new clause 

An additional 20 weeks’ severance payment applies where an employee elects an early redundancy offer, in addition to an 8 weeks’ early acceptance payment. To access the additional payments, the employee must elect this option within 4 weeks of notification that their position is redundant and leave the Company within 4 weeks of notification.  

The additional severance payments are only available to an employee once. This provides a maximum redundancy payment of 72 weeks.

Clause falls short of what Unions were seeking. 

The original discussions held with the company discussed an additional 26 weeks and a cap of 78 weeks on the total redundancy package. 

It appears that the company walked away from this undertaking.


3.6.2 Retention Period

Insert new clause

If an employee does not choose to accept the early redundancy offer, the employee will enter a 26-week retention period. At the end of this retention period, employment will terminate unless the employee has been successful in obtaining redeployment.

The redundancy payment in these circumstances will not include the 13 weeks’ additional severance payment or the 8 weeks’ early acceptance payment. The redundancy payment is capped at an overall total of 52 weeks.

Redeployees to be forced out ASAP. 

As in the previous item the unions/company talked about a cap of 78 weeks, and that time spent in redeployment would be debited from the package up to a maximum of 26 weeks. So every week spent in redeployment would mean one week less of the extra 26 weeks would be paid to people who took redundancy before the 26-week period of redeployment was up.  

3.6.3 Leave

Insert new clause

During the retention period the company may direct employees to take leave.

Redeployees forced to take leave. 

Obvious problems for members in redeployment.

3.6.4 Training Payment  

A training payment of $3,000 for excess employees to undertake training to assist them in finding a new role during the 26-week retention period. 

3.6.5 Temporary secondment or work placement within the Retention Period  

Insert new clause  

An employee may be directed to take a temporary secondment or work placement  

3.6.6 Mix and Match  

Insert new clause  

A mix and match process is available, subject to certain criteria. Expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy remain available.

Does not place priority on Mix and Match. 

Unions seeking a much broader application of mix and match that gives a reasonable opportunity for people to either stay or go depending on their circumstances.  

3.6.7 Redeployment

Insert new clause

The Redeployment and Salary Maintenance policies no longer apply and will be abolished. 

Employees will be disadvantaged in future restructures and contracting out of work. 

Obvious problems in circumstances where there are restructures or where the company seeks to contract out work.

3.6.8 Re-employment

An employee who is made redundant cannot be re-employed for a period of 2 years

Redundant workers not welcome back.

Restraint of trade.

3.7 Salary Maintenance

Insert new clause

The Redeployment and Salary Maintenance policies no longer apply and will be abolished. Where an employee at the date of the Agreement has their salary maintained as a result of the operation of the Salary Maintenance or Redeployment policies, they will continue to be paid in accordance with the policy while-ever they remain in their current role or are a Redeployee.  

Employees will be disadvantaged in future restructures and contracting out of work. 

Obvious problems in circumstances where there are restructures or where the company seeks to contract out work.

4.1.3 Notice Periods

Insert Note – this notes not apply to Excess Employees


4.6.3 Taking of Leave

(with the exception of Excess Employees regarding employee discretion for timing)



Contracting Out

The key features of this clause are the limitation of 28 days each for consultation for both Phase 1 Testing the Market and Phase 2 Go to Market.

The proposed clause retains an outsourcing consultative committee approach to the assessment of any outsourcing proposals. 

Makes it easier for EE to contract out your job. 

This clause makes it easier for EE contract out your jobs. This wording, when used allows for 100’s of further jobs to be contracted out. 

Jobs like linework, subs construction, metering, administration etc etc are areas of contracting out where this clause will have an impact.

6.12 Table 1: Essential Energy Rates of Pay

2.5% Increase from 1 July 2016


One pay increase for massive trade-offs. 

Only one increase over three years’ worth a couple of hundred bucks while you are expected to give up thousands in entitlements or even your job. 

6.13 Table 2: Essential Energy Shift Allowances

2.5% Increase from 1 July 2016


One pay increase for massive trade-offs. 

Only one increase over three years’ worth a couple of bucks while you are expected to give up thousands in entitlements or even your job.

6.14 Table 3 Essential Energy Allowances

2.5% Increase from 1 July 2016


One pay increase for massive trade-offs. 

Only one increase over three years’ worth a couple of hundred bucks while you are expected to give up thousands in entitlements or even your job. 

6.15 Table 4: Essential Energy Electrical Safety Rules Allowance  

Delete references to 2012, 2013 and 2014 rates. From 1 July 2015 rates as per 2014. 

Freezes ESRA – no increase.

Freezes ESRA at 2014 for three years, but don’t worry Gary Humphreys and management still get to collect their huge annual bonuses.


Ausgrid Update - 27 May

Paul Lister - Friday, May 27, 2016

Ausgrid Sale Consultation Dispute.

After a series of back and forth correspondence between the ETU and Ausgrid regarding consultation over the sale of Ausgrid and its impacts on staff, the ETU placed Ausgrid in dispute.

Ausgrid denied that they were required to consult over the impending sale of Ausgrid to private interests. Ausgrid attempted to argue to us that since they were not making decisions regarding the sale then they were not obliged to consult us on the effects on employees as a result of the sale.

Ausgrid escalated the matter to the Fair Work Commission because they were terrified that the status quo provisions of the dispute may have an effect on the sale. The matter was heard on Wednesday 25th May by SDP Hamberger. The outcome was that the status quo provision could not hold up the sale but that Ausgrid should continue to consult on the matter.

To date Ausgrid have answered some of our questions and have avoided others by saying its Treasury’s problem not theirs. We will continue to press them on unresolved questions which came out of the last mass delegates meeting concerning critical matters like job security, transfer of employment and job guarantees to name a few. If they can’t answer then they can get their masters at Treasury to answer.

The idea that Ausgrid and / or the government have not been in active discussions regarding outcomes for employees is simply unbelievable. Our members deserve to know what the organization and the current owners have planned for them when they sell. The government did after all, legislate 5 year job guarantees!

EBA Negotiations.

As a result of the Fair Work hearing referred to above Ausgrid cancelled the EBA meeting scheduled for Wed 25th and have rescheduled to Wed 1st June. They will present their best offer at this meeting. Given the ETU’s recent successes in pushing back Essential’s Energy’s attempts to cancel their agreement, Ausgrid will have to come up with a much better offer than they have to date. We will inform you of developments as soon as we have them to hand next Wednesday.

In Unity,
Mark Buttigieg & Justin Page

We’ve Come a Long Way – It’s Time to Vote NO

Paul Lister - Friday, May 27, 2016

We are coming up for the ballot of members over the Essential Energy MANAGEMENT INITATED BALLOT.

The ballot opens on 4 June and closes on 9 June at 5pm, we have had a look at the organisation contracted to undertake the Ballot (Elections Australia www.myvote.com.au) and while this is a different approach the company is experienced and appears reputable. I am advised that a code will be mailed and emailed to all eligible employees, you will then be required to log into an independent website where you can enter your code and VOTE NO.

Any members that require assistance please ask your ETU delegate or another friendly ETU member to show you how to complete your vote. 

This vote is by simple majority therefore it is critical ALL MEMBERS VOTE & VOTE NO. If you do not vote, then you will be assisting management in getting their agreement up. 

I want to ensure that members clearly understand, the offer from Essential Energy is in no way supported by the ETU.  The ETU’s recommendation is to vote NO in relation to managements offer.

We have been engaged in nearly 18 months of negotiation with the parties getting close to agreement only to have management withdraw from a reasonable position to put a sub-standard offer on the table in one last ditch effort to strip you of your job or pay/conditions.

ETU members have had to make personal sacrifices, take strong industrial action and argue successfully in the courts to stop management from:

  • Forcing members to go home while on redeployment.
  • Forcibly making you redundant.
  • Trying to cancel your existing agreement.
  • Trying to stop the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission from arbitrating an outcome when the parties were deadlocked.

Management will now come to you and say that all of the above are in the past, lets kiss and make up and agree to this dud deal that ensures the organisation will continue to shed good jobs and become a hollow company that simply oversees contractors undertaking the work you are now doing.

Management thought they were in the box seat when they had the cancellation of your agreement bearing down on us and all the managers were out spruiking and threatening that you would end up on the modern award, your pay rates would be halved and every other threat and intimidation they could come up with.

The ETU (and your delegates) have worked extremely hard to ensure members have arbitration as an option and it is our view that members are better off rejecting managements (bad for workers) offer and allow the independent umpire to decide the outcome through arbitration.

Remember to vote NO to the Management Initiated ballot between 4-9 June.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler - Secretary.

Fair Work rule to terminate Protected Action Period.

Paul Lister - Monday, May 23, 2016

Today the ETU took our fight to the Fair Work Commission. In a marathon hearing that didn’t finish until after 5pm Fair Work handed down a decision to terminate the ETU’s protected action period.

The Commission had only two options to either suspend the protected action period or terminate the protected action period. Lawyers representing Essential Energy were arguing for a suspension of the protected action period which would have allow the company to continue their attacks on its workforce if the upcoming ballot is rejected.

Lawyers representing the unions argued in favor of the termination of the protected action period which automatically triggers a 21-day bargaining period after which if the parties have not reached agreement the matter will proceed to arbitration allowing the independent umpire to decide all matters.

Senior Deputy President Hamberger ruled in favor of the unions that the protected action period should be terminated. Essential Energy management was trying to avoid this at all cost as they now potentially lose control over the outcome of the agreement unless they come back with a substantially improved offer in the next 21 days in a genuine attempt to reach agreement.

ETU members across Essential Energy would agree that management have not moved since negotiations commenced more than a year ago and that management were unlikely to move in the future making an agreement extremely unlikely.

Today’s outcome places ETU members in the best position to achieve the best possible outcome by allowing the independent umpire to make a ruling if agreement cannot be reached. This does not mean that there will not be forced redundancies, but it does mean that the ETU, on behalf of our members, will get to put our case to the independent umpire and potentially take any decision out of Essential Energy’s hands.

Today’s outcome has forced the hand of management to bring this long running dispute to an end. The ETU will continue to fight for members by advancing the strongest possible arguments to minimize any impact on workers and deliver an outcome that is more fair than what management were proposing.


It is also highly unlikely that Essential Energy’s application to terminate your agreement will now proceed removing this threat to every single ETU member.

Further information will be provided over the coming days.

Ausgrid EBA Update - 19 May

Paul Lister - Thursday, May 19, 2016

Yesterday your negotiating committee met with Ausgrid in an attempt to further progress the EBA. The state of negotiations can be divided in to 4 categories:

  1. Legal compliance amendments. (We are working through these towards resolution).
  2. Drafting / administrative amendments. (We are working through these towards resolution).
  3. Coverage Dispute. These are amendments to reflect the resolution of a coverage dispute (this was a dispute regarding at what level people on Senior Contract could potentially be covered by the Professionals Managers and Specialists Agreement). The dispute has been resolved by reference to a gross amount below which people currently on senior contract, will be on a transitional schedule until such time as they applied for and gained a job on the Professional Managers and Specialists (PMS) agreement.
  4. Major outstanding Ausgrid Claims:
    • Overtime
      - Ausgrid want to reduce the minimum overtime call out period from 4 down to 2 hours.
      - Ausgrid want to have a minimum period of 1hr worked before they have to pay for claims made outside normal working hours (e.g. phone calls taken and made outside normal working hours).
    • Forced Redundancy
      - Ausgrid want to introduce a forced redundancy package whereby 300 per year (cumulative) could be forced out on a worse package than the current voluntary package. As we have previously explained, this is unacceptable given that anyone offered a “voluntary” package would not wait to be forced out on a lesser package. Under this mechanism Ausgrid would be able to offer any number of employees a voluntary package knowing full well they would likely accept and therefore they could potentially exit thousands of people by stealth.

Given our members and delegates feedback to Ausgrid, they have agreed to place their best offer on the table this Wednesday 25th May at the next EBA meeting. Subject to Ausgrid agreeing, the proposal is then to bring that offer back to a mass delegates meeting on the following Monday 30th May.

One thing is clear; the offer will need to be much better than the one currently on the table. We will not be intimidated by the threats of Agreement cancellation or continuing negotiations with new owners. If Ausgrid put a proposition on the table which does not satisfy our key objectives of job security, a decent outcome on wages and no trade-offs then we will meet head on the challenges of a cancellation application or a negotiated outcome with a new owner.

Any questions you may have please ask you workplace delegate or contact your ETU Organiser.

Further Industrial Action Notified

Paul Lister - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On Monday I had a phone hook up with your negotiating committee where the issue of stepping up industrial action was discussed. It was resolved unanimously that for operational and flexibility purposes the Union give notice of our intention to take protected industrial action every day for the whole month of June.

While this may sound daunting, this notice does not mean that ETU members will strike every day for the month of June but it does give you and your Union a tactical advantage and flexibility to call on strike action at short notice and in a strategic approach to have maximum impact on the company.

This approach was also supported by ETU delegates from across Essential Energy - the ETU will provide further information on what action, if any, and when it is to occur over the coming weeks. We may take no action, we may take little action or we may take more action depending on the circumstances. This will be a decision of members through your delegates.

We continue to explore ways in which we can bring this dispute to an end and we believe the strategic and flexible approach outlined above will exert maximum pressure on the company and force a resolution.

It is possible that this action may threaten the ongoing reliable supply of electricity to regional NSW including to retail customers, businesses and other infrastructure, however that is a matter for the NSW Premier and your incompetent management to figure out.

As I stated yesterday, the ETU's positions has changed - we will no longer provide coverage or response in times of protected industrial action.

If we are to win this as a collective then we must stand strong, be united and support these actions. By not supporting this and future strike action you weaken the union’s bargaining position and sell out your workmates. If we do not win this fight then no-one’s job is guaranteed in the future, it's that simple.



Friends, it's time to be strong. If you need to discuss any matter please contact your workplace delegate or your ETU organiser who will assist you in what every capacity possible.

If we don't fight, we lose.

In Unity,
Steve Butler

Support for Essential Energy Protected Industrial Action

Paul Lister - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

As you know your brothers and sisters at Essential Energy are under even more attack than you are at Ausgrid. Essential Energy have applied to Fair Work to have their Agreement cancelled which if successful could result in them going back to a basic Federal Award provision with the likelihood of unlimited forced redundancies as part of the wash up. In simple terms it would take their Agreement backwards by decades. If they are successful it doesn’t take much imagination to work out what Ausgrid or a new private owner would do next.

The members and delegates at Essential, through the ETU, have done everything in their power to try and reach a negotiated outcome but Essential insist on wanting to force the cancellation of their Agreement so the last resort is protected industrial action. They have already been out twice; Once for 4hrs and then for 24hrs. On Monday 23rd May they will be out from 10pm for 80 consecutive hours.

The Ausgrid EBA negotiating committee today resolved to unanimously support the action of Essential Energy Delegates with the following motion;

The Ausgrid EBA negotiating committee unanimously endorses the actions of our colleagues at Essential Energy in their bid to secure a decent Agreement which delivers on job security and maintains pay and conditions. We understand that our colleagues at Essential through their union have done everything possible to reach a negotiated outcome but Essential Energy continue to attack their Agreement with no willingness to reach a negotiated outcome. We wholeheartedly support the 80 hour stoppage commencing Monday 23rd May at 10pm.

Similar motions of support are coming in from Ausgrid Depots. It is encouraging to see our members standing up for their colleagues in their time of need and I am sure that as the circumstances continue to evolve, that support will continue and if necessary increase.

80-Hour Strike Update

Paul Lister - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Next week ETU members across Essential Energy will stop work for a continuous period of 80 hours commencing at 10pm on Monday 23 May. This is still the case and all ETU members including after hours on-call and control rooms should not turn up to work during the strike period or respond to management requests regardless of the circumstances.

Yesterday I publicly called for Gary Humphries resignation. I did this because your Acting CEO continues to lead the attacks against you and your family and he clearly does not understand his legal responsibility and that of Essential Energy.

The strike action being undertaken next week is court approved protected industrial action. You and your union are protected from any adverse action during this court approved action. By law Essential Energy must guarantee the safe and reliable supply of electricity to customers.

Gary Humphries appears not to understand his most basic responsibility and for this reason he should resign immediately.

Yesterday management sent out a Broadcast to all employees saying that the ETU gave a commitment on the 4th of May that we would provide emergency coverage during industrial action. This afternoon I have written to Gary Humphries to make it clear in no uncertain terms that the ETU’s position has changed.


We cannot guarantee that the public will not suffer extended blackouts. We cannot guarantee that electricity retailers will have electricity to sell, we cannot guarantee businesses across regional NSW will continue to have power. The resolution of this dispute is in the hands of Essential Energy management.

Despite managements public statements, the only action taken by Essential Energy has been to try and terminate your agreement that would result in the loss of 800 jobs and reduction to pay and conditions. Essential Energy is refusing to allow the dispute to be resolved by Fair Work through consent arbitration.    

Friends, next week will be difficult but this situation has now degraded from a position where a resolution may have been possible, after the ETU and other unions made multiple offers and concessions, to one where our members across the state are now calling for decisive action and this is exactly what next week will deliver.

I cannot express to you how important it is that ETU members stick together and all participate in this action.



As always, your workplace delegate and organizers are available to respond to questions.

In Unity
Steve Butler

Electrical Licence Allowance Matter Update

Paul Lister - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

As you would be aware, there has been a long running dispute in relation to the payment of the Electrical Licence Allowance to certain classifications of Electricians.  This matter has spanned over several years and several Fair Work Commission hearings consisting of Conciliation Conferences, Arbitration and an Appeal against the Arbitration Decision.

In addition to the above Fair Work Commission hearings, Endeavour Energy applied to the Federal Court with an application to appeal the Fair Work Appealed Decision which was heard yesterday and today (16th & 17th May 2016) in the Federal Court.

In brief, the submissions put to the court over the past 2 days by Endeavour and the CEPU could be categorised into 2 parts;

  1. The first part went to whether the Federal Court had the jurisdiction to hear the appeal against Fair Work’s Appeal Decision of which Endeavour argued that the Federal Court has jurisdiction and the CEPU argued that it did not and that the appeal application should be overturned.
  2. The second part went to the issues of the appeal case if the Federal Court found in favour of Endeavour in the first part (as above).

In conclusion, the presiding 3 Judges reserved their decision to be provided in due course to the Parties.

Lets hope that the Federal Court finds in favour of the CEPU in the first instance and bats it out of the park altogether.

Watch this space, I’ll keep you posted as issues eventuate.

In Unity
Brad Currey

ETU Delegates Endorse 80 Hour Stoppage, Notice Given to Company.

Paul Lister - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Last Tuesday the Essential Energy ETU negotiating team had a conference call. During this call the ongoing dispute around negotiations was discussed and your negotiating team was provided with an update from our legal team, in particular lawyers from Slater and Gordon.

Based on the current state of negotiations your negotiating team endorsed plans for an extended work stoppage using twenty 4 hour stoppages to provide for a continuous 80 hour strike period. This decision was then taken to ETU delegates from across the state on a telephone town hall after which your workplace delegates responded by text message further endorsing and indicating high levels of support for the proposed 80 hour protected action.

ETU members across the company expressed a strong desire that the next round of action should include all ETU members from across the whole company including control rooms and those rostered as on-call.

Last night the ETU, on behalf of members, notified Essential Energy of our intention to stop work for a continuous period of 80 hours commencing at 10pm on Monday 23 May concluding at 6am Friday 27 May covering all CEPU (ETU) members in all Essential Energy locations.

We understand that this a significant escalation in action however based on feedback from members this is exactly what is needed – a decisive move that will force Essential Energy’s hand. This action was only endorsed after extensive discussion and was not arrived at lightly.

The ETU has provided management with almost two weeks’ notice and while they will complain about the lack of coverage, if this management team was any good they would be able to address their own concerns within this timeframe.

This is not likely to be the end of this matter. After providing notice last night, the 80-hour strike issue will develop over coming days and we will keep you informed of any developments.

As I stated in my last notice – the secure jobs, pay and conditions that you enjoy today were not simply given to you by generous bosses. ETU members that have gone before you had to endure the same struggles to secure what you enjoy today. It is now our responsibility to protect this for both current and future workers.

We will prevail in this dispute but only if ETU members at Essential Energy across the state make the conscious decision to stick together. If we don’t stick together, you will hand Humphries and Mike Baird the victory they are so desperate to secure while coming off second best.

Times are tough, if you have any questions please talk to your workplace delegate or your ETU organiser.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler