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.
Mark Buttigieg - 0417 208 447 / Justin Page - 0414 877 301