On the 20th July 2016, The Secretary of the ETU Steve Butler wrote to Trevor Armstrong raising concerns at the lack of progress on asbestos remediation and removal at Ausgrid as well as not fulfilling the other undertakings associated with the Asbestos Heads of Agreement signed by the ETU and Ausgrid back in March 2013. Mr. Armstrong responded to that correspondence on 22 July 2016 and we have in turn responded. This correspondence has been attached, along with the March 2013 Heads of Agreement for member’s reference.
On the 22 July the ETU supported by other unions including the USU, RTBU and the PSA conducted a protest rally outside the offices of Ausgrid and then proceeded with police escort to the state parliamentary office of Premier Mike Baird in Martin Place. The purpose of the rally was to highlight the fact that since 2002 there have been over 42 asbestos related diseases in the electricity supply industry over 29 of which Ausgrid have contributed to. Of those over 42 diseases over 7 have resulted in deaths and given the above proportions you can bet Ausgrid has contributed to the majority of those deaths. In response to the rally Trevor Armstrong sent out a broadcast to employees basically stating that Ausgrid are doing a great job of fixing up the asbestos issue and that there is no problem. We have been informed otherwise by our members. Whilst ever the statistics continue to show that asbestos related disease and deaths increase we will not let up until Ausgrid accept their responsibility and institute best practice and remove all asbestos from the network so that there is zero risk to our members.
In accordance with the Heads of Agreement which was signed by the ETU and Ausgrid back in March 2013, there are several undertakings that Ausgrid gave which we need to keep them accountable for. In particular I highlight the following clauses in that agreement;
1.3 Ausgrid will remediate and remove friable asbestos from the 10 substations identified in the letter from Ausgrid to the ETU dated 30 December 2012 and develop a program for removing doors that contain asbestos in underground CBD substations. If members know of substations that still contain asbestos fire doors they should notify me by email.
1.4 Ausgrid will develop a program for the remediation of other asbestos components of substations and facilities (not necessarily identified in the audits) which workers have highlighted and which have either become friable or have the potential to become friable due to regular movement such as, for example, asbestos cabinet doors on LV CBD substation trunking boards. The development of this program will follow a risk based approach. If members know of substations and facilities that still contain friable asbestos or asbestos that could become friable they should notify me by email.
1.5 Ausgrid will consider the risks and implications from asbestos removal by carrying out 'pilot' analysis at Mason Park and then using the outcomes of that analysis to carry out work on a broader program for removal of asbestos and labelling as required by regulation, with a focus on risk based priorities for asbestos removal. As per the commitments at the Fair Work Commission, this analysis will be completed by 31 May 2013. This pilot analysis will be developed by Ausgrid in consultation with its employees as the basis for seeking the remediation on the sub transmission network and for a program of asbestos removal across the network.
Mr.Armstong’s response to the ETU on this point was a as follows;
A comprehensive audit of the Mason Park site was conducted in accordance with the agreement. It identified two asbestos items on electrical equipment that required remediation. Following the Mason Park audit, corresponding audits were conducted on Ausgrid's other Subtransmission and Zone Substations sites to identify any similar issues. The removal program was completed by May 2015. Clearance certificate documentation for all removals is listed on the asbestos register.
You will note that this response conveniently ignores the last sentence of the undertaking in Clause 1.5
“This pilot analysis will be developed by Ausgrid in consultation with its employees as the basis
for seeking the remediation on the sub transmission network and for a program of asbestos removal
across the network”.
Accordingly members should email me instances where they know that asbestos exists across the network so that we can highlight these to Ausgrid.
We will keep members updated on the progress of this renewed campaign. In the meantime I urge all members to exercise the upmost vigilance and safe work practices in being proactive when dealing with this deadly material. The bottom line is if you don’t think you can perform work around or on asbestos containing materials then don’t do it. Please be vigilant in also identifying to the union the instances above where asbestos is present on the network so that we can continue to keep Ausgrid accountable. Please enter ‘”Asbestos Audit” in the subject line of the email.
EBA – NO RESPONSE TO COMBINED UNION’S PROPOSAL FOR WAGE FREEZE
It has now been over 6 weeks since the unions proposed the wage freeze as an alternative to Ausgrid’s job slashing proposal of forced redundancies. We have had no response from Ausgrid management who have clearly been sidelined by the NSW Treasury while they decide whether the Chinese government or a Chinese corporation purchases this vital strategic asset. The ETU has been in discussions with independent federal MP’s Mr. Xenophon and Mr. Katter who have voiced opposition to the sale. We also continue to lobby the Rev Fred Nile at the state level for support in moving amendments to close legislative loop holes in the job guarantees which Ausgrid are attempting to exploit.
AER PHASE 2 REDUNANCIES
Consultation is nearing completion with the ETU securing many improvements through the process including a fairer desktop assessment process based on actual skills obtained, an appeals mechanism and a more logically sequenced approach based on trade transfers first then mix and match then regional identification of surplus staff.
Document: Asbestos Correspondence Trevor Armstrong 1 August
Document: Asbestos Working Arrangements Heads of Agreement 19 March 2013