Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Ausgrid EBA Update - 25 October

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 26, 2017

On Wednesday the negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management to continue negotiations on the Ausgrid Agreement.

As promised last week, the combined unions again attempted to make progress by putting on the table a package of the four contentious clauses -- outside of the also contentious CCR proposal. These clauses have previously been identified as roadblocks to an Agreement.

A summary of our basic position on each clause was put as follows:

  1. A post 1 July 2020 Forced Redundancy provision with an annual cap of 50 forced redundancies per financial year and an extra payment of $100,000 for all forced redundancies. The higher Forced Redundancy payout means that the cap is a genuine one and applies to forced redundancies not voluntary redundancies. Without a significant differential between a voluntary and forced package, the cap becomes meaningless.
  2. A contracting out clause that gives members and their delegates oversight of contracting out and some ability to prevent contracting out to rogue operators and the lowest bidder.
  3. A Dispute Settlement Procedure that retains the current status quo provisions but places strict timetables on disputes.
  4. A consultation provision that places strict timetables on the length of consultation required by Ausgrid.
  5. A 3% annual wage increase over four years.
  6. A Career, Capability and Remuneration scheme that objectively recognises skills and performance.

This package represents real concessions to Ausgrid while continuing to deliver on our key outcomes of job security, no trade-offs and a decent wage rise. It is a position that we think is worth fighting for all the way.

We also made it clear to Ausgrid that -- while we accept that the current skills structure mechanism for career advancement is somewhat dysfunctional and needs to improve - Ausgrid’s proposed CCR alternative will result in a severely downgraded pay scale for all your career paths. We have put the view that a combination of skills-based progression and performance-based pay may be a way forward.

The union also put the view that -- to have a hope of reaching a negotiated outcome -- we need to reach agreement on some basic concepts in relation to the major issues above. The fact that Ausgrid has already tabled an EBA proposal when some of the fundamental concepts on the major issues have not been agreed to makes negotiation very difficult. Ausgrid noted this view and has agreed to a smaller working group of union officials and Ausgrid management to try and reach in-principle agreement on the major issues above. This smaller group would then report back to the larger EBA negotiating committee with a view to working up the corresponding clauses if agreement on the basic concepts can be achieved.

In the meantime, in accordance with the resolution of the delegates meeting held on 11 October, we are finalising our application to the Fair Work Commission for a ballot of members to take protected industrial action. In accordance with what members have been telling us they want, the EBA matter will be brought to a head over the coming months.

Finally, Ausgrid has rejected our request for paid depot meetings and has said that we must hold meetings outside normal work hours. This is a concerning change from the last time we toured depots when access was given during work hours. It tells you a lot about Ausgrid’s unwillingness to allow us to speak to our members. What are they afraid of? If they think their current proposal is so great, surely it will sell itself! As a result, I will be scheduling after hours meetings over the next few weeks. It is important that these are well attended so that members get a thorough update on the negotiations and the industrial campaign we are about to conduct.

In Unity,
0417 208 447 | markb@etunsw.asn.au

Essential Energy Responds to ETU’s Calls to Improve the Enterprise Agreement Offer.

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 26, 2017

As reported yesterday, the ETU and Delegates called on Essential Energy to improve the in-principle offer which could see an early settlement of the Essential Energy Enterprise Agreement 2018. We sought improvements of a minimum cap on wages, bring second and third pay rise forward and revised wording on Individual Flexibility Arrangement clause. Essential Energy Board met today and the following improved offer has been put forward for the ETU and its member’s consideration.

  • A roll-over of current employment conditions through a new enterprise agreement with the one exception of a revised Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFA) clause;
  • A minimum cap of 2% which applies to each of the proposed CPI adjustments (on an annual or pro-rata basis);
  • A maximum cap of 2.5% which applies to each of the proposed CPI adjustments (on an annual or pro-rata basis);
  • Subject to the above points, CPI based wage increases as follows:
    • a CPI adjustment on 1 January 2018 based on the previous rolling 12 month CPI rate (CPI figures based on ABS Catalogue 6401.0)
    • a further CPI adjustment on 1 July 2018 based on the previous rolling 6 month CPI rate (minimum 1% up to maximum 1.25%);
    • a further CPI adjustment on 1 July 2019 based on the previous rolling 12 month CPI rate; and
    • a further CPI adjustment on 1 July 2020 based on the previous rolling 12 month CPI rate
  • Apply the above wage increases to other allowances (excluding ESRA);
  • Adopt a revised IFA clause which applies to “arrangements about start and/or finish times and / or vary the hours of work, within the spread of ordinary hours (6am – 6pm, between Monday to Friday) where requested by an employee and mutually agreed by Essential Energy”.
  • A nominal expiry date for the enterprise agreement of 30 June 2021.

Essential Energy revised offer seeks to genuinely progress discussions to see an early settlement. This revised offer front loads pay rises with the first pay rise being paid 1 Jan 2018 (6 month before expiry or current agreement)  followed by an additional pay rise added in July 2018.  The offer would see a total pay rise over 3.5 years of a minimum of 7% up to a maximum of 8.25%. The first pay rise on 1st January 2018 would be 2% as the rolling 12 months is at 1.8%.

Next Steps

The ETU is now seeking feedback from members on this in-principle “rollover” early settlement proposal. An in-principle agreement would then see a formal process start where representational rights would be issued by Essential, minimum 21 day negotiation period, new Enterprise Agreement drafted then put to a vote of all employees covered by the Enterprise Agreement.

If an in-principle agreement is not reached, the parties would enter into a traditional style negotiation (logs of claims) where the parties enter negotiations and seek to reach agreement on a new Enterprise Agreement to start at July 2018.

The ETU is asking Delegates to provide feedback from a depot level to myself by COB Tuesday 31st October 2017. Do the majority of members at your depot accept this “in-principle” offer? YES or NO.
Justin Page
Assistant Secretary

0414 877 301 | justinp@etunsw.asn.au

Essential Energy enterprise agreement discussions commence

Peter Moss - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Forty ETU Delegates from Essential Energy met at our ETU Sydney Office yesterday to hear an Enterprise Agreement proposal from Essential CEO John Cleland. The intention was to ascertain the views of the ETU on an early settlement of the Essential Energy Enterprise Agreement 2018 negotiations.

Essential’s proposal:

  1. Employment Conditions- A roll-over of current employment conditions through a new enterprise agreement with the one exception of replacing the current Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFA) clause with the model flexibility term (As contained in the Fair Work Regulations 2009).
  2. Term of Agreement- A nominal expiry date of 30 June 2021.
  3. Pay Increase - A consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment to wages and allowances (excluding the Electrical Safety Rules Allowance). The CPI adjustment would be capped at the NSW Governments Wages Policy Task Force limit of 2.5% per annum.
  4. If parties reach agreement on an in-principle basis by mid-November, first wage increase would be 1 January 2018 (6 months earlier than the current expiry date of 30 June 2018), second wages increase 30 June 2019 and third wages increase 30 June 2020.

The Delegate’s had the opportunity to hear directly from John and to ask questions about Essentials proposal. After considering the proposal the Delegates called on Essential to improve the offer by putting a minimum cap of 2% in place and bring the second and third wage increase forward. The parties will work on wording for the IFA Clause.

John committed to consider the ETU’s counter proposal and respond in a timely manner. When questioned about Essentials the intent of reaching an early agreement, John’s response was the Business needs to reform through less bureaucracy, better systems and processes, improved technology, not by making changes to the Enterprise agreement.

On the question of redundancies John stated there will not be any massive wholesale redundancies. Essential are achieving reductions through voluntary redundancies and natural attrition. There will be further reductions through improved technology, but it is anticipated it will be through voluntary redundancies.

Justin Page
Assistant Secretary

EBA Meeting Wednesday 17 October Update

Paul Lister - Friday, October 20, 2017

On Wednesday the negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management to continue negotiations on the Ausgrid Agreement. Most of the meeting was occupied with Ausgrid providing dollar amounts attached to their proposed Career Capability and Remuneration scheme. We will shortly be providing detailed individual examples of why this scheme will result in pay and career paths being shut down.

It is important that members understand how this scheme works and why Ausgrid are so desperate to implement it – because it will save them millions of dollars on their wage bill going forward. Under the current skills progression scheme employees can progress up a career path so long as they provide evidence that they:

  • have the skill.
  • Ausgrid needs the skill and
  • use the skill.

Points are allocated to each skill as they are attained, and progression is based on provision of that evidence. Ausgrid do not like this scheme because they say it results in a level of progression which is too automatic – in other words it costs them too much to pay everyone what they’re worth.

Under the proposed Ausgrid scheme you will no longer proceed up your career path based on evidence but on managerial discretion. If you are a Line worker or Jointer or Subs fitter and you could have reasonably expected to progress up to a certain level in your structure by gaining skills, now you will be expected to use those skills and perform the higher-grade duties with no extra pay. If your manager decides that this “exceeds expectations” then they may grant you some extra pay points along the way – but they don’t have to. Then when you apply for a vacant role via the normal merit appointment process you will be appointed at the new level pay point of that role which in most circumstances is significantly less than the current value of those roles. For some classifications for example - the top of the structure - will drop by $20,000.00

Ausgrid are saying is that they are going to save a huge bucket of money over the life of the agreement by supressing your career paths and in return you’ll get a few crumbs – if your manager says you can have them!

At the same EBA meeting the combined unions also asked Ausgrid what their position on a cap on forced redundancies is and Ausgrid’s response was to say that they had not considered the cap. In other words, they came back to the meeting with nothing. Ask yourself why would Ausgrid not agree to a cap on how many people they can force out the door after July 2020? The only conclusion one can come to is that they want to sack everyone.  Currently they can’t do that because the current agreement contains no forced redundancies and we will not negotiate a new agreement that does not include a cap which is necessary to provide job security for you.

In a bid to progress negotiations - the combined unions suggested that we present a package of 4 contentious clauses which have previously been identified as road blocks by Ausgrid for them to respond;

  1. Forced Redundancy provision with an annual cap – (Ausgrid concession needed)
  2. Tightened up contracting out clause – (Ausgrid concession needed)
  3. Modified consultation clause (Union concession needed).
  4. Modified Dispute settlement clause (Union concession needed).

This package will be presented at the next EBA meeting on Wednesday 25th October. We are doing everything in our power to get a negotiated outcome but Ausgrid are making this much more difficult than it needs to be by demanding concessions and taking from workers while not giving anything back.

In the meantime, the unions will be applying to the Fair Work Commission early next week for the right to ballot our members to take industrial action – this is in line with last week’s delegates resolution.

I will shortly be touring depots and updating members on these matters. It is important that members remember that we only get decent outcomes when we are prepared to stand up for our fair share and fight. We will always talk to Ausgrid but there comes a time when we need action, now is that time.

Lets not forget that between 2014-16 Ausgrid executive’s received an increase averaging 5.33% while everyone else’s real wages went backwards. You deserve an unconditional annual wage increase and 3% is very reasonable.

In Unity,
0417 208 447 / markb@etunsw.asn.au

Long Service Leave Accrual Dispute - We Won!

Paul Lister - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The ETU has secured a big win for Endeavour Energy members relating to Long Service Leave accruals and how they are paid after ETU Member Nick McWhirter (Snr) stood up with the support of the union against Endeavour Energy.

The dispute centered around Long Service Leave entitlements and accruals where employee's change their working hours - ie moving from a 36hr/wk to 40hr/wk in Nick's case.

This dispute commenced in May last year and was subject to a number of meetings with the Company, Fair Work Commission Conciliation conferences, Fair Work Commission Arbitration Hearing (where the decision went against Nick & the ETU) and a Fair Work Commission Appeal before a Full Bench of 3 Commissioners…where Nick and the ETU team were successful. This is a big win and a precedent setting decision as a result of ETU action.

The dispute centered around the members Long Service Leave entitlement being identified and recorded in “Hours” which didn’t equate to his entitlement of “Weeks” he had accrued in accordance with the EBA for his “Years of Service”.  This meant the member was being short changed his Long Service Leave entitlement worth approximately $9,500.00.

The Company has recorded the LSL entitlement the member had accrued while working a 36hr/wk arrangement, recorded in “Hours” not “Weeks”, and never adjusted the accrual for this period to accord with the remainder of his current “Years of Service” under a 40hr/wk arrangement.

In practical terms this meant that the member would be paid for taking his Long Service based on his current 40hr/wk wage (which is appropriate), however, because the LSL entitlement was being recorded in “Hours” not “Weeks”, and was never adjusted for his current 40hr/wk working arrangements, meant his recorded LSL would run out before his LSL entitlement accrual in “Weeks” was used (or paid out if he had left the Company) thus short changing his entitlement.

In short, in the Appeal we were able to demonstrate an error of the Commission’s Arbitration Decision regarding the interpretation of the Long Service Leave provisions in the EBA.

The Fair Work Commission Full Bench ordered (or words to the effect)

  1. The Appeal be upheld.
  2. The previous Arbitration decision be quashed, and
  3. The payment for the 36hr/wk period is to be paid at the current applicable weekly rate of pay (this being a 40 hour week).

Check your LSL Accrued Entitlement

To all members who have changed their ordinary hours of work/week you might want to check your LSL entitlement.  This can be done by dividing the LSL “Hours” recorded on your pay slip by your ordinary hours of work each week. This will identify your recorded LSL entitlement in “Weeks”. Then establish your actual LSL entitlement in “Weeks” from Clause 15 of the EBA and see if they are the same (if you have taken any Long Service Leave remember to deduct that amount).

If there is a difference, then you may wish to discuss this with your local Delegate, contact the ETU, or myself, to assist in resolving the anomaly.

In Unity
Brad Currey

Ausgrid EBA Reportback 16 October

Peter Moss - Monday, October 16, 2017

Endeavour Energy Team Ready to Bargain

Peter Moss - Monday, October 16, 2017
Negotiations for a new enterprise agreement covering 1,200 Endeavour Energy workers are off and running.

ETU members aim to:
* Boost job security
* Maintain existing employment conditions
* Achieve reasonable wage rises.

Our mighty Negotiating Team includes: Chris Tyrrell, Noel Mahon, Jareth Woosley, Nathan Gale, Brad Rossitor, Nick McWhirter, Ellen McNally, Dave Campbell, Tony McCarthy and Troy Fewings.

Go team!

ETU Delegates Vote Unanimously to Apply for Protected Industrial Action

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yesterday the combined unions delegates met to discuss Ausgrid’s proposed Agreement. See the next page for a detailed summary. We have been negotiating with Ausgrid under the new owners for nine months, on top of the two years prior to that with the previous owners. Instead of progressing in the negotiations we have gone backwards.

Ausgrid employees have conceded:

  • A 4-year wage freeze
  • A forced redundancy policy post-June 2020 with a cap
  • The loss of almost 2,000 jobs over five years. We are doing much more work with fewer people
  • Many conditions stripped including take-home vehicles, on-site gyms and taxis for shift workers.

Management has given nothing and wants:

  • To severely limit and weaken Consultation and Dispute Settlement clauses which were largely off the table six months ago
  • A token wage rise with no backpay -- conditional on acceptance of a severely limited career path
  • Reduction of your capacity to take Annual and Long Service leave at half pay
  • To switch you to a fortnightly pay cycle
  • To reduce the number of occasions you can take sick leave without a certificate from seven down to four
  • To direct when you can take your RDOs.

Delegates clearly told us at the meeting that our members believe enough is enough and things must be brought to a head. The time for talking is not yet over, but it is now time for action. The meeting unanimously voted to empower the negotiating committee to finalise a list of protected industrial actions which were discussed in detail at the meeting. Preparation of an application to the Fair Work Commission will now proceed that basis. This is the first step we need to take to gain authorisation from the FWC to conduct a ballot of members for protected (legal) industrial action. We will keep you informed on the progress of that application.

Ausgrid is desperate to put a positive spin on their proposed agreement that would, if implemented, result in the total destruction of job security, wholesale contracting out, loss of career progression, loss of any meaningful consultation or disputation rights -- all for a small wage rise. Let management know what you think of this offer – so the company understands we will not accept going backwards.

The table below details the major deficiencies with the offer identified by the delegates, and the impediments to a negotiated outcome.