Electricity, Water and Utilities

Ausgrid EBA Update - 23 June

Posted on 23-6-2016

As members would be aware, a meeting of the combined delegates took place on the 6th June to consider Ausgrid’s latest EBA offer. The offer contained a forced redundancy provision which directly contradicts the 5 year job guarantees provided in the sales act legislation. The view of the delegates was that we should not be trading away those guarantees for the sake of reaching an agreement with Ausgrid prior to privatisation. Instead the meeting came up with the following resolution;

That the meeting of combined union delegates notes the progress made in negotiations as evidenced by the current tabled offer from Ausgrid. The combined union delegates instruct the officials to establish a subcommittee comprising 7 delegates and officials to develop a proposal for a wage freeze as part of an alternative position which complements redundancies”.

Accordingly a detailed proposition was put to Ausgrid management last Friday 17th June. The proposal would fund the equivalent Full Time Employees above Ausgrid’s funded number of 3570, while Ausgrid institutes a plan of management to exit the surplus numbers via VR’s. The Unions proposal shows that the reductions can be achieved without the need for a forced redundancy provision. The proposal combines a wage freeze, exiting portions of Labour Hire and Senior contract staff, a mix and match program and VR’s. The wages freeze alone funds up to 200 jobs.

It is important to remember that on top of these proposed savings Ausgrid has already been and is likely to continue to be, the beneficiary of the following significant savings;

  • Reductions of some 1000 staff over the last 18 months.
  • A decision by the AER to grant a 1.5% increase to the amount of network charges they can claw back off retailers.
  • The substantial sacrifice that our membership have already made since the last Agreement term nominal expiry date of 19 Dec 2014 which has seen an 18 month wage freeze to date.
  • The pending outcome of the AER appeals process is likely to result in a substantial amount of return funding to Ausgrid via restored Operational Expenditure and Return on the Regulated Asset Base.

The proposal seeks to extend the wage freeze based on the admirable and principled message that our members have sent Ausgrid; they value their colleague’s jobs more than they do a pay rise.

The cumulative saving which would accrue to Ausgrid as a result of this pay freeze going forward is a substantial concession in an environment where executive pay rises continue unabated and inflation, while still low, actually means our members would take an effective pay cut to save their colleague’s jobs. In that context the combined unions trust that Ausgrid take this proposal as a serious attempt that both solves their “unfunded” jobs problem without sacrificing job security.

Our current view is that Ausgrid simply has a desire for a forced redundancy provision which has transformed from being a vehicle to achieve the funded number of 3570 to one which is an end in itself as it provides future owners and management with a vehicle to exit large volumes of people in perpetuity. We hope that the response to this proposal proves us wrong because we believe it does provide Ausgrid with a viable alternative. To date we have not heard back from Ausgrid. Don’t hold your breath! Of course any such offer above is always conditional on another delegates meeting endorsing the final proposal.

AER Consultative Committee Update

As members would be aware we have been in extensive consultation with Ausgrid over the past few months regarding their proposal to institute AER phase 2 job cuts. These consultations have been successful in achieving a reduction on the numbers of positions Ausgrid seek to cut by 12. The consultation is nearing a conclusion but as of this Wednesday we still did not have specific information we have been waiting for regarding; final numbers per depot, the merit selection process and the composition of the classification pools. Nevertheless and against our protestations, Ausgrid proceeded to implement phase 2 by sending out letters yesterday, to reform affected employees in the Hunter and Central Coast. As a result the ETU has placed the matter in dispute. A meeting was held after the ACC yesterday in a bid to resolve the dispute. Ausgrid have agreed to continue consulting on these and other matters but wish to proceed with the mix and match program. To the extent that beginning of the phase 2 mix and match program does not jeopardize the consultation being exhausted because it is limited to classifications which are not in dispute, there may be scope for some limited classifications to be opened up to VR and mix and match. To that end, discussions are continuing but the dispute will remain in place and accordingly the phase 2 program remains in status quo until we resolve our outstanding questions.

In Unity,
Mark Buttigieg - 0417 208 447 / Justin Page - 0414 877 301

Contrary to the lies management tried to spread in a desperate attempt to get their agreement over the line, only a limited number of matters will be arbitrated by the Fair Work Commission – exactly what the unions were saying.

On the last day of the compulsory 21-day bargaining period following the unions win to terminate protected industrial action, Essential Energy and the combined unions attended a conciliation hearing facilitated by the Fair Work Commission yesterday to reach agreement on what matters will be arbitrated and what matters are agreed for the formulation of a new agreement.

Rather than try to reach agreement during the compulsory bargaining period Essential Energy management were more interested in waiting on the overwhelming rejection of their management-initiated ballot. On the last day Essential Energy management decided to talk to the combined unions about what matters were agreed and what matters require arbitration.

The combined unions have always taken the view that there were only a small number of matters which had been sticking points in the negotiations and this was made known to Essential Energy management back in April when an offer of consent arbitration was put forward by unions and rejected by a hostile management more focused on cancelling your agreement to force workers onto the basic award.

We now know management’s strategy was flawed and as a result they have lost control over the outcome of this agreement, something they were desperate to avoid. The six matters that will be arbitrated by the Fair Work Commission are:

  • Consultation
  • Work Practice Change
  • Dispute Resolution Procedure
  • Redundancy
  • Salary Maintenance, and;
  • Outsourcing

A Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission will arbitrate these matters in late August or early September.

The remainder of the agreement will be made up by all other provisions of the 26 May proposed Agreement, including the 2.5% pay increase which will be payable on the making of the Workplace Determination (arbitration) and backdated to 1 July 2016.  The combined unions and Essential Energy have agreed in writing the matters to be arbitrated and the matters which will be agreed terms.

The combined unions are now focused on compiling supporting evidence for our claims that will be advanced in the arbitration process in order to secure the best possible outcome for members. We now have a clear path to a resolution, one that will see the independent umpire hand down a binding decision.

We may not get everything we want but it is also highly likely that the outcome will be fairer that what management were offering.

CEPU/ETU 2015 Financial Accounts

Posted on 15-6-2016

In accordance with the requirements of the Fair Work Registered Organisation Act 2009 the CEPU Electrical Division, NSW Branch (the Branch) has made available to members the complete financial report and associated documents for 2015.

By law the Branch must provide a copy of their financial report to members, this can be downloaded from the members area after logging in. Click here to access the CEPU 2015 financial report.

The Federal Court this morning handed down their decision in relation to Endeavour Energy’s appeal in response to a full bench decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission in October 2015. The Federal Court ruled in favour of the ETU essentially dismissing Endeavour Energy’s appeal and in doing so delivering ETU members a solid victory.

The Full Bench Decision of the Fair Work Commission ruled in favour of the ETU last October meaning that ETU members working at Endeavour Energy would continue to receive the Electrical Licensing Allowance until the process outlined in the Fair Work Decision has been completed – a win massive win ETU members.

In May this year the Federal Court heard an appeal from Endeavour Energy who were attempting to have the previous Fair Work Decision overruled.  In short Endeavour Energy didn’t get past square one when the Federal Court dismissed their application ruling that there were no grounds for the appeal to be heard.

Today’s Federal Court ruling puts this matter beyond doubt and leaves no further avenues for Endeavour Energy to challenge this issue in attempt to steal thousands of dollars each year from hard working ETU members.

In yet another taxpayer funded cash splash Endeavour Energy have wasted tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers’ fees in an attempt to attack their workforce – an approach supported by the NSW Liberal and National Government.

On top of today’s win over Endeavour Energy, ETU members at Essential Energy voted against a management initiated ballot for a new enterprise agreement that would have resulted in hundreds of forced redundancies and the loss of pay and conditions.

In this historic result 93% of the workforce voted and 87% voted NO to managements attack which shows what can be achieved through solidarity. ETU members at Endeavour Energy should take note of this result and be prepared to step up to the plate and reject future management attacks on the same level

Yours in unity
Brad Currey, Organiser.

Over the past three weeks ETU members have displayed what it is to be union – I want to personally congratulate each and every ETU member for their solidarity and collective action which last night resulted in Essential Energy workers sending management a message loud and clear that their proposed deal is rejected.

Of the 2,898 eligible employees that could vote in the ballot, 2,697 actually voted – a 93% turnout which is simply unheard of in industrial ballots. This shows just how passionate Essential Energy workers were to have their say. 2,347 employees voted NO, 350 voted yes and 201 did not vote.

In percentage terms 87% of employees rejected managements proposal and in doing so have given management a bloody nose. This was obvious in the correspondence I received last night from Essential Energy indicating that they were “withdrawing their offer”, a withdrawal after it had already been overwhelmingly rejected so I’m not quite sure how that works.

So where to from here? Essential Energy management have now lost control of the outcome – the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission, will now hear from all parties and consider submissions through an arbitration process. The arbitration will be scheduled for six days in late August.

The combined unions legal team have to date delivered good outcomes for our members and they are already working to pull our case together for the upcoming arbitration. I will keep you posted on developments as we move through this process.

I would like members to reflect on where we have come from. Just over six months ago management tried to force redeployees not to attend work – the ETU took action and we won. We continued negotiations in the hope to secure a fair agreement but management were not prepared to consider the needs of its workforce and instead filed to cancel your agreement. Through industrial action taken by ETU members we were able to eliminate this threat – again the ETU won.

Due to the action of members, their final roll of the dice was to use the carrot and stick approach by increasing their offer and threaten employees that this may be at risk if you didn’t vote for job losses and cuts to conditions. Through a well-run campaign, and I thank our delegates and officials, ETU members again prevailed and rejected managements offer.

After 3 – nil we now have the opportunity to be heard by the independent umpire, something the ETU offered the company months ago but which management rejected. We will prepare our case and our arguments and your union will fight to secure the best possible outcome through this independent process. We may not secure everything we want but we are hopeful that this process will deliver a better outcome than what was on offer by your hostile management.

Congratulations to all, the ETU will continue to fight for our members.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler, Secretary.

Ausgrid EBA Update - 7 June

Posted on 08-6-2016

As planned, yesterday the combined union delegates met to discuss Ausgrid’s latest offer. The meeting was very productive and ranged over more than 3 hours of debate with numerous questions and suggestions from the floor.

The overwhelming feeling of the meeting was that we should come up with an alternative offer which attempts to balance Ausgrid’s consistently stated problem of a number of unfunded roles, with our membership’s consistently stated priority of job security. To that end the following resolution was passed unanimously;

That the meeting of combined union delegates note the progress made in negotiations as evidenced by the current tabled offer from Ausgrid. The combined union delegates instruct the officials to establish a subcommittee comprising 7 delegates and officials to develop a proposal for a wage freeze as part of an alternative position which complements redundancies”.

Unfortunately it appears we will not even have the opportunity to develop the proposal. Ausgrid have today sent out communications to staff rejecting the concept of an alternative proposition blaming “the unions” – which is of course blaming you – who constitute the “the unions”, for rejecting the offer.

Yesterday’s delegates meeting anticipated that Ausgrid would respond in one of two ways – either consider the proposal or proceed to a management initiated ballot of their proposed Agreement.  Ausgrid has shown its hand on where it sees the future company’s real interests lie and explains its sudden haste to reach an agreement with the unions.  Ausgrid’s true motivation throughout this negotiation is now well and truly exposed – not to solve their funding problem but to institute a mechanism in to your agreement for forcing people out the door in perpetuity in order to facilitate a sale to a private operator.

Let’s be absolutely clear, the legislation passed by the NSW parliament last year provides for 5 year job guarantees;

Schedule 4 Employment guarantees

Employment guarantee period
For the purposes of this Schedule, there is a 5-year "employment guarantee period" starting on 1 July 2015 and ending on 30 June 2020.

Forced redundancies
There are to be no forced redundancies of continuing employees  during the employment guarantee period, except by agreement between the affected employees (or a person authorised to act on their behalf or on behalf of a majority of them) and the employer, or in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 of the Commonwealth.

Definitions
"continuing employee" means:
(a) an employee of an electricity network SOC, or
(b) an employee whose employment is transferred under this Act.

What Ausgrid are essentially saying to you all is; “Vote up the Ausgrid proposal, trade away your legislated job guarantees to allow Ausgrid and a new owner to force as many people out the door as we like”.

In their communication to staff today Ausgrid state that their package; “showed numerous concessions and the inclusion of several new offerings - it is an offer that we have received a lot of positive feedback on from employees”.

When you look at your current Agreement, you could be forgiven for wondering just what those “numerous concessions” and “several new offerings” are. In essence, after benefiting from an 18 month pay freeze, what Ausgrid are proposing is the same Agreement you have now with the addition of a forced redundancy policy which allows them to subvert the legislated intentions and push you out the door.

Ausgrid say that they have “received a lot of positive feedback from employees”. Presumably then this would translate in to a large number of their employees voting yes for their proposal if they were to put it to a workplace vote. That being the case we suggest that Ausgrid gauge the true reaction of their employees to this proposal and conduct a workplace ballot on the matter.

At the combined union delegates meeting yesterday, the message could not have been clearer. There is no appetite for an agreement which allows an effectively unlimited forced redundancy policy to be implemented. There was however appetite to come up with a compromise solution to Ausgrid’s short term funding problem which Ausgrid have now rejected out of hand - even the opportunity to consider.

Clearly Ausgrid have drawn a line in the sand – and that’s fine because we now know where that line is - at the water’s edge and our members rightly so, will not agree to a compulsory drowning.

We will keep you updated with developments. In the meantime, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact your workplace delegate or relevant organiser.

In Unity - Mark Buttigieg & Justin Page.

ETU members are invited to attend a public forum on the future of education covering TAFE and university. The forum will be held on Wednesday 15 June at the Campbelltown RSL, 1 Carberry Lane, Cambelltown at 7pm.

Please RSVP to: mstuart@actu.org.au

Ausgrid EBA Update - 3 June

Posted on 03-6-2016

On Wednesday your negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management who as promised presented their best offer. There is no doubt that this offer is an improvement on previous offers. The mandate given to the committee from members’ right from day one has been;

1. Job security.
2. No trade off in conditions
3. A reasonable wage outcome.

The offer largely delivers on mandates 2 and 3. Unfortunately it does not deliver on the most important mandate;

1. Job Security. Under this proposal the more accurate heading is Job Insecurity.

In the “fact sheet” on the proposal that Ausgrid released on Wednesday, they state that the package results in a;

“Reduced capacity for forced redundancy” because “There can be no more than 200 forced redundancies in any 12 month period. These cannot be backdated or accumulated”.

What they don’t tell you is that because the voluntary package will be more attractive for the majority of the workforce, employees who are offered a voluntary package will understand what’s coming next if they say no – a forced package with a lower payout. The logical reaction of an employee in this situation will be to take the VR while it is still voluntary and attracts the higher payout.

The practical outcome of this mechanism is that the 200 restriction becomes meaningless. By way of example Ausgrid could offer 1,000 employees a VR, the vast majority of whom will likely say yes knowing full well what’s coming next. Because voluntary redundancies are not counted as part of the 200 “cap”, they effectively force, via the voluntary / compulsory mechanism, up to 1,000 people out. In this way the proposal is simply a carrots and sticks mechanism to coerce as many people out as they choose to offer a VR.

In essence what appears to be a voluntary redundancy policy is really just an unlimited forced redundancy policy by stealth.

If Ausgrid are genuine about solving their short term issue of unfunded jobs by exiting people, they would have proposed a global cap inclusive of both forced and voluntary exits or made the forced package more attractive or had a sunset clause on the forced redundancy policy or some combination of these. The way it is framed now tells you that what Ausgrid really want is a mechanism to give the new private owner the ability to clear as many people out as they want and bring in contract staff if they need to.

Notwithstanding this major outstanding issue of job insecurity, there is no doubt that this is a serious offer from Ausgrid. This is testament to the resolve of all of you and your delegates and the negotiating committee who over the past 18 months have stuck together through thick and thin.

Given this, and the fact that Ausgrid have stated that this is their best and last offer we believe the agreement needs to be responsibly and seriously considered on its relative merits and demerits and to that end there will be a combined delegates meeting on Monday 6th June at Silverwater depot in the auditorium at 11am. The meeting has been approved by management and all delegates should attend this critical meeting.

It is our job as your officials to present Ausgrid’s proposal for consideration in the context of what it means for our members should it be accepted and what it means if it is rejected and the relative risks associated with either option – An Agreement going into the lease transaction but with a significant loss of job security OR Maintenance of the current level of job security and conditions but the uncertainty of having to negotiate a new Agreement with an unknown entity going into the lease transaction.

Ultimately however, it is the membership of the combined unions via their delegates who will decide our collective position on the matter once they are fully informed of the above issues. We look forward to delegates input at the meeting on Monday.

In the interim is there are any questions please contact your workplace delegate and / or your relevant official.

Essential Energy this morning made application to the Fair Work Commission to vacate hearing dates, with a view to withdrawing their agreement cancelation case following the ETU’s membership solidarity.

This is a massive relief for ETU members and a direct result of ETU members’ commitment at Essential Energy. Today’s application is a demonstration that management’s strategy to strip workers of their agreement has failed but only because ETU members were prepared to stand up for themselves at Essential Energy.

In what can only be interpreted as managements acceptance that their agreement will be voted down and rejected by the workforce this weekend, Essential Energy also sought a directions hearing to be scheduled for Thursday 16 June to set out how the arbitration matter should proceed.

Lawyers representing the ETU sought assistance from the commission for a conciliation hearing to see if an agreement might be achievable during the current 21 day negotiating period. A conciliation hearing has now been set for Tuesday 14 June.

Finally, Essential Energy advised that they would prefer the arbitration to take place in the second half of August subject to the availability of the full bench, a matter the ETU agreed with – this now gives ETU members a clear timeline of events should a majority of workers vote NO in the management initiated ballot.

Expected timeline:

  • June 4-9 VOTE NO TO MANAGEMENTS CRAPPY OFFER
  • June 14 Commission assisted conciliation in attempt to reach agreement
  • June 16 Directions hearing to determine how the arbitration matter should proceed
  • Late August six days to be set aside to hear arbitration of outstanding matters if required and subject to availability of the full bench

IT IS NOW IMPORTANT THAT AS MANY EMPLOYEES VOTE AND VOTE NO TO MANAGEMENTS CURRENT OFFER AS THE SIZE OF THE “NO VOTE” MAY ASSIST OUR POSITION AS WE MOVE FORWARD. This is extremely important and members should not relax until this entire process is finished because we all know exactly what management are like and capable of.

ETU members have been exceptional throughout this sustained attack by management and it now appears that there is light at the end of the tunnel provided members maintain their commitment right through until the end.

WE MUST SEND MANAGEMENT THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE MESSAGE – VOTE NO.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler, Secretary.