Electricity, Water and Utilities

Ausgrid EBA Update - 6 January

Posted on 06-1-2017

Dear Colleague,

ETU State Secretary Steve Butler this week wrote to the CEO of Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd, Richard Gross, with a suggested timetable for the continuation of Agreement negotiations.

The ETU is keen to restart the negotiation process and the Union is looking forward to working with the new management team to get an agreement over the line. 

We will keep you informed as soon as we hear a reply back from Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd.

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

Ausgrid Update - 21 December

Posted on 21-12-2016

Dear Colleague,

As you would no doubt be aware, on 1 December 2016 Ausgrid was leased by the state government to a consortium consisting of IFM and Australian Super. Since then information regarding the new owners has been virtually non-existent despite numerous representations by the ETU for more detailed information and a request for a delegates meeting to brief our members on the issue.

Yesterday the matter was escalated by the ETU to a hearing at the Fair Work Commission in a bid to clarify the issues and avoid further delays. The hearing was presided over by Senior Deputy President Hamberger and the following matters were raised and discussed;

As of 1 December 2016 all employees of Ausgrid were transferred to a new entity known as Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd, the ETU argued that this had not been clearly and formally communicated to all employees and the Unions. SDP Hamberger questioned if Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd had advised the Fair Work Commission of these changes in ownership as he was unaware as to whether they had done so.

Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd.’s view is that as a result of the transfer of ownership, employer representational rights letters need to be reissued to employees before EBA bargaining can re-commence. The ETU raised concerns regarding the lack of ongoing consultation from the new management team. 

The ETU’s concern is that Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd’s position will create further delays in bargaining. This delay would be exacerbated should we have to conduct another protected action ballot to restore our ability to take protected industrial action during the negotiations. Prior to our dispute at the FWC it seems Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd was in no hurry to recommence negotiations.

The ETU argued at the FWC that in order to avoid further delays in bargaining, a meeting should be held as early as possible in January 2017 and that representational rights should be issued ASAP if that is the legal requirement.

Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd has now responded to the ETU requests in the attached correspondence from Richard Gross to Steve Butler. Now that Ausgrid Management Pty Ltd has provided the answers sought by the ETU, we are seeking legal opinion prior to moving forward in a bid to restart negotiations as soon as possible.

Click here to read the correspondence from Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross to the ETU.

In Unity
Mark Buttigieg

Working in Heat

Posted on 13-12-2016

Weather forecasters are predicting that temperatures will be in excess of 38*C across NSW while the ACT is expected to reach temperatures exceeding 33*C.

All members should be aware of the dangers of heat stress please follow the links below for further information from SafeWork NSW on working in heat.

SAFEWORK NSW HEAT RELATED ILLNESS

SAFEWORK NSW HOT & COLD ENVIRONMENTS

SAFEWORK NSW MANAGING THE WORK ENVIRONMENT CODE OF PRACTICE

ETU members should take appropriate action depending on your individual health and work situation, including but not limited to taking regular breaks, conducting individual (personal) risk assessment and/or ceasing work completely.

Members should exercise extreme care as temperatures rise. If you have any questions about working in heat please contact your workplace delegate or ETU organiser.

In unity,

Dave McKinley - Deputy Secretary

 

There has been an incident in South Australia involving injuries to an employee that occurred as a result of a failure of an EWP.
 
A knuckle on an 18M GMJ EWP failed while the employee was aloft. The employee suffered a broken leg and other injuries.

The EWP was at working height (9m) when the top knuckle pin dislodged, the bucket fell back to its rest position (about 2.5m) with the worker and tools in the bucket. This bucket is 8 years old and had not undergone major rebuilds. 

The pin retaining device appears to have failed. The fulcrum on GMJ EWPS are covered by a shroud and cannot be seen during start up inspections. 

SA Safe Work is investigating and all similar EWPs have been removed from service.

All similar EWPs should be removed from service until such times as members can be assured of their safe operation.

Specifically, and in addition to all other prestart checks, members are to physically check fulcrum pins and pin retaining devices on all similar EWPs prior to any use.

Since the Liberal/Nationals came to government in 2011, Essential Energy has slashed 1,400 regional jobs – 789 Voluntary Redundancy – with the rest coming from retirement and resignations. They have reduced the number of Essential Energy locations across the state from 147 to 100, and despite the company making a $1.2 million loss in the last financial year, Essential Energy PAID THE NSW GOVERNMENT A $28.1 MILLION DIVIDEND!

Analysis of the Essential Energy Annual Report reveals that the better than expected result in 2015-16 has been attributed to:

“… reduced operating costs, particularly in the area of employee costs, contractor expenses and plant costs. The lower employee costs were a result of lower than budgeted employees during the year.”

On top of revealing an addiction to dividends, the Annual Report, quietly tabled on the last sitting day of the NSW Parliament, revealed that Essential Energy executives all received big pay rises over the 2015-16 financial year with the smallest pay increase for the executive team being 4.1% or a $14,000 pay rise in a single year!

The combined executive increases for the top five earners totaled almost $300,000 which, for a company that is implementing hundreds of job cuts, is nothing short of double standards and betrayal by those that lead your organisation.

Leading the pack was Gary Humphries who pocketed an increase of $219,622 according to Essential Energy’s annual reports for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 financial years, representing an increase of more than 40% while others including Luke Jenner, David Nardi & Caroline Hungerford who all pocketed increases of between $14,000 and $24,550 or between 4.1% - 7.8% in the last year.

These executive pay rises, along with the hefty government dividend, could have been used to fund frontline workers and keep hundreds of people employed but Essential Energy has chosen to distribute almost $300,000 in spoils to just half a dozen people.

The ETU is calling on these overpaid executives to return this money to the company in order to minimise jobs losses. We say put your money where your mouth is – you say you are sorry about the cuts – now show that you are sorry through your actions.

When these people next visit your depot on their “roadshow” be sure to remember that they accepted massive pay increases while at the same time finding ways to put you and your workmates out of a job.

In Unity,
Dave McKinley
Deputy Secretary

NSW Labor today called on the new owners of Ausgrid to publicly commit to the five year employment guarantees as was the intention of the NSW Parliament.

Labor’s Shadow Energy spokesman, Adam Searle, said this morning that if IFM Investors and Australian Super move to introduce forced redundancy during the employment guarantee period (up to 30 June 2020) or fail to honour the intent of the job protection legislation, Labor will move to establish an Upper House inquiry into the company’s actions.

This latest development could prove embarrassing for the new owners if they push ahead with redundancies by exploiting potential loopholes in Fred Niles and Mike Bairds legislation. An Upper House inquiry has the power to call any person as a witness including board members, management, politicians and representatives of workers.

While the ETU remains hopeful that things will not get to this point, today’s action and commitment from Labor is welcomed by the ETU.

Members will no doubt be hearing from the new owners over the coming weeks and we encourage you to ask the difficult questions on their future plans for the business.

The ETU is ready to work with the new owners and their management team to secure a fair agreement that recongnises the needs of workers and delivers secure employment with wage increases. We are also keen to explore new opportunities, including new technology and contestable work, to expand the business into the future.

We hope to be able to provide further substance to members in the coming weeks and months.

In Unity
Dave McKinley

Yesterday I met with the Deputy Premier John Barilaro regarding the Fair Work Commission determination and the impact this will have on regional jobs across NSW. During the meeting I advised the Deputy Premier that the ETU will act in the interest of our members to minimise any impact of job losses.

Mr Barilaro gave no commitment that he would intervene to stop the job losses but I did advise him that the the ETU would campaign vigorously against any cuts. The Deputy Premier gave an undertaking to go away and talk to Essential Energy management to find out exactly what the company’s “real” plans are in relation to the actual number of positions to be targeted between now and 2019.

During the meeting I outlined opportunities that exist for Essential Energy to minimise jobs losses by returning work in-house from contractors and to expand into contestable areas, an approach that would keep people employed and generate additional revenue and profit for the company. The Deputy Premier gave me an undertaking that he would raise these issues with management.

Our priority is to secure as many jobs as possible for ETU members, through whatever means necessary and to minimse the impact of the Fair Work Commission ruling.

I believe that a commitment from the company to halt outsourcing, return work in-house and an expansion of the business into contestable areas, not only makes sense, but will reduce the impact on ETU members and regional NSW.

Essential Energy already have the employees and equipment to do this work and this is the policy that the ETU will pursue on your behalf. We will work cooperatively with the government and management if it means saving jobs at Essential Energy.

I want to thank ETU members for their solid commitment over the past two years – without this members would be much worse off - the feedback we are getting loud and clear across the network is that no-one trusts current management but we will continue to actively push for decisions and policies that see work return to Essential Energy and the company take advantage of expansion opportunities.

Finally, during this time I ask all members to look out for each other, a decision has been handed down and as we move into the Christmas Period we want everyone to be able to spend quality time with your family and friends.

In Unity,
Dave McKinley
Deputy Secretary

The ETU has today written to the new leader of the NSW National Party, John Barilaro, calling on him to intervene and stop or at least minimise proposed job losses at Essential Energy. As the sole shareholder, the NSW Government has the ability to intervene and stop the job cuts if they choose.

A copy of the letter from the ETU to the Deputy Premier is available here for your information, we will continue to put political pressure on the NSW Government and in particular the NSW National Party.

Click here to access a copy of the full bench workplace determination – we encourage all employees to read this document in full taking particular attention of what your management argued for and in particular the company’s disclosure at [60] on page 36 in which Essential Energy told the Fair Work Commission that they intend to reduce their workforce from the current 3,200 positions to 1,600 positions through the use of outsourcing.

This is the company’s true plan, the one that management did not want you to see and the plan that their lawyers fought so hard to keep secret. You cannot trust management, they are not your friend however the ETU will fight for your interest regardless of the outcome, we will continue to hold management to account and we will use all available measures to secure the best outcome for members.

Tomorrow we have a phone hook up to go through the decision and what it means, this will be followed by depot visits from organisers over the coming weeks and we will also make contact with management following the handing down of the decision.

If members have any questions please contact your workplace delegate or ETU Organiser and keep an eye out for each other, if you have any concerns please contact the union for assistance.

In Unity,
Steve Butler

Prior to the Workplace Determination matter Essential Energy employees were facing the prospect of an Agreement Cancellation case, which if Essential Energy were successful in, may have resulted in all Essential Energy employees reverting to the modern award with the loss of allowances and significant reduction in pay and conditions including unlimited forced redundancy.

ETU members were faced with fighting the agreement cancellation matter and rick losing or forcing the issue to arbitration and letting the Fair Work Commission determine the outcome of the Essential Energy Workplace Agreement.

In May ETU members took decisive action which forced the deadlock to arbitration covering four items, those being:

  • Consultation term,
  • Dispute Settlement Procedure,
  • Redundancy provisions, and;
  • Outsourcing provisions.

The Fair Work Commission has today handed down their Workplace Determination covering these items which is attached for members to read and consider. The following is a summary explanation provided for ETU members at Essential Energy.

Consultation.

The Fair Work Commission has determined that the “model consultation clause” as contained in the Fair Work Act should apply under a new workplace agreement. The “model clause” requires consultation:

“Once a definite decision to introduce a major change to production, program, organization, structure or technology in relation to its enterprise agreement that is likely to have a significant effect on the employees.”

Or

“Proposes to introduce a change to the regular roster or ordinary hours of work of employees.”

Essentially this clause requires Essential Energy to advise relevant employees about major change once a decision has been made and that the company is required to “give prompt and genuine consideration to matters raised about the change by relevant employees”.

In the event of any workplace change it will now be up to members to notify Essential Energy that they want the union involved in consultation as Essential Energy will no longer be required to notify the union but only affected employees.

Dispute Settlement Procedure.

The Dispute Settlement procedure will continue to cover all disputes arising out of the employer-employee relationship – this essentially means that the DSP will apply to all workplace disputes moving forward as has done in the past.

The Dispute Settlement Procedure included in the Workplace Determination retains a limited status-quo provision, however unions must now apply to the Fair Work Commission for Status Quo to apply which will be time limited and applied on a case by case basis.

The DSP Clause remains largely unchanged from the existing agreement with the exception of how Status Quo will apply.

Redundancy Provisions.

The ETU forcefully put our views in relation to the retention of no forced redundancy, despite this the Fair Work Commission in the Workplace Determination has included provisions for involuntary (forced) redundancy.

The provision determined by the Fair Work Commission, despite protests from your union, allows Essential Energy to make up to 600 roles forcibly redundant over the course of the agreement which will expire on 30 June 2018, after which point there is no cap.

Importantly, and against the unions’ submissions, the Fair Work Commission has ruled that any Voluntary Redundancy and Mix & Match WILL NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THIS CAP, additionally current re-deployees will also not form part of this cap however current re-deployees will be entitled to participate in the “early retirement” option as outlined below, something that Essential Energy management argued strongly against.

The redundancy provision included in the Workplace Determination will provide employees holding positions that are determined redundant with the option to accept and an “early retirement” payment of 20 weeks’ pay plus their redundancy payment calculated using the all-purpose rate (Essential Energy wanted base pay to form this calculation) and years of service capped at 52 weeks (ie maximum of 72 weeks’ pay).

The Workplace Determination indicates that the 600 cap relates to “roles” and not “people”. The focus will be on how Essential Energy attempt to interpret the definition of roles.

The case fought by the ETU has exposed plans of Essential Energy management to reduce their current workforce from 3,200 to 1,600 by 2019. Essential Energy lawyers, on behalf of management, attempted to keep this plan secret by application to Fair Work which was rejected.

The ETU can only assume that management and the NSW Liberal/National Government wanted to keep this secret so no one would question how they intend to deliver a safe and reliable regional electricity network into the future. This is another example of how management and the NSW Government have deceived employees.

Outsourcing Provision.

Essential Energy have indicated that they intend to “re-shape” their workforce through the use of outsourcing in order to cut current staff numbers from 3,200 to 1,600 by 2019. Under the provision handed down by the Fair Work Commission, Essential Energy will be permitted to engage contractors where peak workloads cannot be met by the Essential Energy workforce or where specific expertise is not available in the Essential Energy workforce.

If contractors are to be considered, Essential Energy must “test the market” and provide assistance to employees to prepare an Expression of Interest or tender.  The Contracting out clause will be subject to the Dispute Settlement Procedure and the ETU will continue to fight to ensure work is kept in-house.

The outsourcing provision remains largely unchanged but is a long way from what the company wanted which was open slather contracting out of existing jobs.

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There is no doubt that the outcome of the Fair Work Commissions workplace determination will have long lasting impacts for dedicated and loyal Essential Energy workers and the ETU will continue to represent members and fight for the best possible outcomes for each individual member.

The workplace determination has bought to a head the long running dispute between Essential Energy, their employees and their unions. The ETU is today calling on the NSW National Party to intervene and stop any job losses – a test for the new National Party Leader, John Barilaro.

The ETU will be holding a telephone townhall with delegates on Friday, and Organisers will be visiting depots and making themselves available to members to discuss the outcome and the process moving forward.

Both the company and unions must now accept the Fair Work Commission outcome and make application for a new agreement within three days after which the Workplace Determination will come into force by way of a new workplace agreement including the terms set out in the determination. This process should be completed in the coming weeks.

Throughout this dispute and over the past two years ETU members have been unbelievable in their solidarity, mateship and general support of each other and while we face difficult times ahead I ask all members to look out for each other and to contact the union with any concerns you have.

We will continue to stand up for you and take the fight forward into the future both in the workplace and politically in order to make the best of this outcome.

A full copy of the Decision will be available once a corrected version is issued by the Fair Work Commission.

In Unity,
Steve Butler

Dear Colleague.

As you are aware the new owners of Ausgrid, Australian Super and IFM Investors (Industry Super Funds), are due to take over the management of the company in the coming weeks. The ETU is aware that the new owners are preparing to conduct a companywide roadshow to “sell” themselves to staff.

Don’t believe the spin, members should take this opportunity to pressure the new owners to commit to job protections covered by legislation through an ongoing commitment to no forced redundancy.

Unions, and Super Funds backed by union members, continually advocate for a different style of management, one of inclusion, respect and mutual benefits and this change in ownership presents an opportunity for Australian Super and IFM Investors to demonstrate their commitment to these principles.

The ETU is ready to negotiate and cooperate providing the interest of the workforce is acknowledged and secured. At the same time the ETU is ready to fight, regardless of who the owner is, to secure the intent of the job protection legislation through an enforceable agreement of no forced redundancy for the life of any new agreement. Your union is ready to launch a campaign if the new owners intend to deliver something different, a campaign that will involve high profile media, social media, political and grass roots activities.

Finally, I remind members that we have available to us a range of industrial action that we will draw upon if necessary however in the first instance we are prepared to negotiate in good faith to secure the outcome that Ausgrid workers deserve.

Your interest is our business and we will do whatever it takes to secure the best possible outcome.

In unity,
Dave McKinley
Deputy Secretary

PS The new management company Ausgrid Pty Ltd was registered on 20 October and their Board was subsequently announced with directors: Ashley Barker, Hugh Gleeson, Peter McGarry, Michael Hanna, Cath Bowtell, Jason Peasley and Prosper Sebafundi.