Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

ETU & USU FORCED TO LIFT BAN ON MEMBERS TRAINING CONTRACTORS

Paul Lister - Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Yesterday the ETU and USU were forced into the Fair Work Commission over the ban on training contractors, including Indian company Tata Consultancy Services. Deputy President Sams made it exceedingly clear that he believed our actions constituted industrial action and therefore we must lift the ban.

Under the circumstances the Unions had no choice but to lift these work bans or risk facing binding orders and potentially fines.

This is another clear example of how current workplace laws are broken. The Fair Work Act prevents workers and their unions from protecting skilled local jobs. The Act does not allow people to follow their conscience.

The lifting of the bans is not the end of this issue. We continue to fight for these jobs to stay in Australia - just as we fight to protect as many jobs as possible throughout Ausgrid.

The Unions continue to lobby Ausgrid’s owners - Australian Super, IFM Investors and the NSW Government - to ensure that there is no off-shoring or contracting out of local Ausgrid jobs.

JOB SECURITY

Ausgrid’s decision to off-shore these jobs has driven home the need to fight for stronger job security clauses in the EBA.  We are arguing strongly for a cap on the number of redundancies post-2020, when the current employment guarantees expire, as well as a contracting out clause that ensures our members are not undermined by cheap alternatives.

These two issues are fast becoming the sticking point in your EBA negotiations. I have no doubt that Ausgrid will not agree to protect jobs and maintain conditions without a concerted push from the membership.

Stay tuned as the next few weeks will tell us exactly what management’s plans are. This will determine the scale of the campaign we run moving forward.

In Unity,

Dave McKinley
ETU SECRETARY

Ausgrid EBA & Job Reduction Update

Paul Lister - Friday, August 11, 2017

EBA Negotiations

Ausgrid continue to consider their position with a view to putting a firm documented proposal to the unions - sometime towards the end of this month or early September. We will obviously reserve our judgement until we see that document and will always be willing to negotiate. Having said that we are increasingly becoming pessimistic of the possibility of an amicable outcome given Ausgrid’s position of wanting to increase job insecurity by insisting on unlimited forced redundancies and the ability to contract out work at lower rates of pay and conditions.

Once we have received Ausgrid’s position on the Agreement we will report back to delegates and decide on how to move forward with the matter - one way or another.

Ausgrid’s ongoing program of job cuts

As reported last time, Ausgrid have consulted on the axing of some 236 jobs on top of the thousands they have already axed over recent years and intend to consult on an extra 60 on top (i.e. 300 FTE all up). As a result of several disputes lodged by the union the following results were achieved.

  1. GIS (Geographical Information Systems) mapping section: an alternative proposal was put by members and delegates which would have seen job cuts reduced from 23 down to 15. Ausgrid did not accept the proposal but agreed to a transition period of 6 months whereby a number of staff would be kept on to oversee the transition to a contracting out model of data recording. Ausgrid have undertaken to review the numbers if the projected assumptions underlying the model turned out to be inaccurate.
  2. Asset access: Discussions are continuing around a dedicated monitoring and rescue based model (previously just monitoring) whereby the previous numbers of 23 would be retained and possibly expanded on. The new model improves productivity by using Asset Access as a professional rescue service and teaming up with region staff to provide monitoring where Asset Access staff are not available for monitoring.
  3. Contact Centre: This area remains in dispute as Ausgrid have attempted to shut down an administrative centre (Sydney Contact Centre) and re-advertise positions in Newcastle effectively giving no viable opportunity for the Sydney based Customer Service Representatives and Team Leaders other than redeployment on a lower income.
  4. Administration/Clerical: The USU and ETU have participated in the job evaluation for these roles and whilst the points value of the new roles was revised upwards it was not enough to result in an upward revision from Admin / Clerical 7 to 8. Note that Ausgrid have confirmed that salary maintenance of all current grade 8 people who subsequently land a role will be maintained.
  5. Arborists: The ETU is in discussions with Ausgrid management regarding Ausgrid’s decision to axe one of the three arborists roles. These roles oversee contract tree trimming activities and in our view, are already stretched to the limit over the full Ausgrid franchise area and this is a completely unwarranted cut.
  6. Trainer/Assessors: The ETU has this matter in dispute because of Ausgrid’s attempt to devalue the Network Operators Training / Assessor role by about $20,000.00.

I will be off work from Friday 11th August returning Monday 11th September. In my absence Anthony O’Sullivan will be performing my role. I would ask all delegates to support Anthony and give him every assistance in carrying out the role.

Anthony can be contacted on the following: 0467 565 902 and anthonyo@etunsw.asn.au

EBA Negotiations delayed as Ausgrid rejects proposed job security clauses

Paul Lister - Tuesday, July 18, 2017

There has been a delay in EBA negotiations as Ausgrid are yet to put their position on a number of key areas that the unions have identified below. Ausgrid have told us that they do not expect to present a position on these matters until the next scheduled meeting on 2 August 2017. The combined unions negotiating committee have maintained the following position in terms of each of these items as follows;

  • Potential incentive payment for redeployees; Ausgrid have yet to present their position on a proposition for an incentive payment that we put when Ausgrid stated that they were having trouble exiting redeployees from the business. We have also given Ausgrid an alternative to an incentive payment which is to find redeployees jobs within the business instead of paying contractors to do their work plus paying our members to sit in redeployment. It doesn’t seem like a very smart business model to have people sitting in redeployment until June 2020 when you could be utilising them productively. One would have thought the new owners would be driven by basic business sense and not the mindless ideology of the previous owners but Ausgrid’s actions in this area suggest otherwise.
  • Response to the ETU proposition on a contracting out clause which recognises that Ausgrid should consider only contractors with like rates of pay and conditions to Ausgrid Agreement employees; We will not have our members exposed to a race to the bottom on wages and conditions. The contracting out clause we have proposed is common across several electricity supply agreements that were used as exemplars in the AER benchmarking process. These types of clauses prevent employers cynically using contactors as a method for undercutting their permanent internal employees and making them redundant. Ausgrid have indicated that they will reject such a clause which presents a major sticking point in an Agreement being reached for us. This is particularly concerning when coupled with Ausgrid’s position in item 3. below.
  • A limit on the numbers of any post June 2020 (end of job guarantee) forced redundancies; Ausgrid have indicated that they do not accept a limit on forced redundancies after the job guarantees expire on 1 July 2020. We have said that such a limit is non-negotiable and that by indicating they want unlimited forced redundancies after June 2020 flags their likely intentions with regards to outsourcing remaining work and instituting more mass job slashing.

There are other significant areas of disagreement but the three above remain major sticking points. We will update members after the next schedule EBA meeting on 2 August 2017.

Ausgrid continues to destroy jobs.

Ausgrid have now largely completed consultation on the axing of another 236 jobs on top of the thousands they have already axed over recent years – this excludes an extra 60 on top they are yet to consult us on (i.e. 300 FTE all up). Not content with the previous owner’s decimation of jobs they want to extract even more blood. The ETU (supported by the combined unions) placed the whole matter in dispute because of several inadequacies in the process including;

  • No data on final job reductions by classification and location,
  • No due process afforded in accordance with the Agreement in respect of job evaluations and
  • lack of dialogue with union officials on final numbers post employee proposals.

Since notification of the dispute Ausgrid have now provided the job cuts data and undertaken to formally abide by the joint union / management panel process for job evaluation as specified in the Ausgrid Agreement. As a result of the dispute, discussions are occurring on outstanding issues and final numbers in the following areas.

  • GIS (Geographical Information Systems) mapping section; is in dispute due to the consultation process, job evaluation and final numbers.
  • Field Services and in particular Asset access; consultation is on-going on final configuration and numbers as the ETU had placed the matter in dispute based on our view that the Ausgrid proposal would not have adequately catered for a rescue function which we believe is necessary to safeguard the welfare of our members entering confined spaces.
  • Contact Centre; In dispute as a result of Ausgrid targeting the Sydney contact centre based on work location and employment status as shift workers.
  • Administration / Clerical; In dispute because of job evaluation’s not being completed with Ausgrid proposing to downgrade many Admin grade 8’s to 7 and question marks over salary maintenance.

The ETU are in ongoing discussions over these matters and will update members as progress is made. If members are being interviewed for reform affected roles that would have an impact on opportunities in other potentially reform affected areas that are in dispute then please notify your delegate or myself ASAP. If members in any other areas have concerns arising from this process which I have not addressed above please contact your delegate or myself.

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

Medical assessment dispute continues as Revision 2 fails to address key issues

Peter Moss - Monday, July 17, 2017

The Work Capacity Assessment Procedure is still in dispute. The ETU strongly advises that in the interim, members should hold off attending any medical assessment.

In the Fair Work hearing on 16th May 2017, Essential Energy and their Lawyers adamantly argued in front of DP Sams that they have not threatened or disciplined any employee for refusing to attend a Work Capacity Assessment appointment.

On the 20th June 2017 the ETU wrote to Essential Energy requesting specific wording changes within the Procedure. Essential responded with another revised Procedure on 30th June 2017 which again failed to address the key issues the ETU has identified. Namely-

1)    Restrict the scope of employees to Live Line & Heavy Vehicle employees which under statutory requirements, Work Capacity Assessments must be carried.

2)    Where an employee is deemed “Unfit for substantive duty –permanently”, the ETU requested the employee be placed in a suitable alternate role. Essential failed to address this and their revised Procedure shows their true intent. It states that if an employees is deemed “Unfit for substantive duty –permanently”, they will be placed on Personal leave. It also now states “Essential Energy may terminate the employee’s employment in accordance with the industrial instrument in place at the time”.

3)    The Procedure document is still deficient in ensuring that employee’s personal medical history details and specific outcomes of the Assessment are kept confidential and not disclosed to Essential.

4)    The ETU sought improved wording around workers compensation, assessments to occur in paid time & document control but Essential failed to address these concerns.

Have you given Essential consent to obtain private medical history?

Employees who have already completed and signed the Essential Energy Work Capacity Assessment Musculoskeletal and Functional Assessment forms have given Essential Energy consent to obtain your private medical information through the your treating Doctor’s and other Health Practitioners.

Essential have now changed the forms, but members who have already signed a form should contact your Organiser ASAP and the ETU will provide you with instructions on how to revoke that consent to ensure Essential cannot access your private medical history.

The ETU has advised Essential that the matter remains in dispute and the Union intends to relist the matter before DP Sams.

Members are reminded you are legally entitled to have ETU Representation in any employment matter including investigations, performance matters, disciplinary matters, safety matters etc. The ETU will keep members updated on this matters through our ETU workplace delegate’s network, Facebook and via the ETU website.      

Justin Page

Assistant Secretary

ETU NSW

Medical Assessments Notice No4 - Essential Fails to Address the ETU’s Key Issues.

Paul Lister - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Work Capacity Assessment Procedure is still in dispute. The ETU strongly advises that in the interim, members should hold off attending any medical assessment. If you are threatened with discipline, inform the person threatening you that you are exercising your legal right to be represented by your Union and contact your local delegate or Organiser immediately.

In the Fair Work hearing on 16th May 2017, Essential Energy and their Lawyers adamantly argued in front of DP Sams that they have not threatened or disciplined any employee for refusing to attend a Work Capacity Assessment appointment.

Last week Essential provided a revised Procedure to the ETU. The revised Procedure fails to restrict the scope of employees to Live Line & Heavy Vehicle employees which under statutory requirements, Work Capacity Assessments must be carried.

Essential also failed to adequately address what happens if an employee is deemed “Unfit for substantive duty –permanently”.

The ETU has advised Essential that the matter remains in dispute and the Union intends to relist the matter before DP Sams.

Members are reminded you are legally entitled to have ETU Representation in any employment matter including investigations, performance matters, disciplinary matters, safety matters etc. The ETU will keep members updated on this matters through our ETU workplace delegate’s network, Facebook and via the ETU website.     

Justin Page
Assistant Secretary

Removal of ETU Safety Ban - Towing Jinker Trailers with Borer Cranes.

Paul Lister - Friday, June 09, 2017

In response to the Safety Ban the ETU issued on Wednesday 7th June 2017, Essential Energy yesterday made Application to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop unprotected industrial action. Essential alleged the ETU Safety Ban on towing jinker trailers was illegal industrial action. The matter was heard today before Deputy President Sams.

Essential Energy agreed to withdraw their application following agreement on the following process to be followed by employees-

“Consistent with Essential Energy’s standard practice, should any crane operator have a concern regarding the weight of any crane borer in terms of its registration compliance, the following steps are to apply:

  1. Notify your immediate supervisor regarding your concerns and provide details of the total load for that particular vehicle;
  2. Arrange to have the vehicle weighed for compliance at a certified weighbridge;
  3. Once completed, provide the weighbridge certificate to your supervisor.

Should the relevant compliance weight limit be exceeded at the weighbridge, you should take immediate action to reduce the total weight to within the registration compliance limitations.  Should this not be possible, notify your immediate supervisor who will arrange appropriate remedial action for the vehicle.  Vehicles are not to be driven unless they meet RMS compliance.

The ETU agrees that this is an appropriate process for ensuring RMS compliance for our heavy fleet operators.  The ETU agrees to immediately withdraw all notices in relation to this matter and work will continue as normal”.

On the basis of this agreed process, the ETU withdraws its Safety Ban and strongly encourages all heavy vehicle drivers to follow the above process to ensure RMS compliance is met.

Members must understand that as the operator of the heavy vehicle, by law both you and your employer have the obligation for ensuring that the vehicle is operated within the weight and load limits imposed by the Heavy Vehicle National Laws Act of NSW and you cannot be directed to work in an unlawful manner.

If you are unaware of the current actual weight of the vehicle and have concerns please ensure you follow the steps outlined in the above process and put it over an accredited weigh bridge.  If you ordinarily tow a jinker/pole trailer with this vehicle, this test should be conducted both with and also without the loaded trailer attached.

Essential Energy has communicated directly to all drivers and Supervisors of the impacted Ozzy Crane Borers, ensuring that they are aware that they are not to tow jinker trailers behind these vehicles until further notice. All impacted Ozzy Crane Borers have also been fitted with a Danger Tag to prevent the unintentional use of these machines to tow a jinker trailer.

If you need any advice as to your obligations under the NSW heavy vehicle laws, please contact your immediate Supervisor, the RMS directly or contact the Union for further assistance.

Justin Page
Assistant Secretary
ETU NSW

ETU Safety Ban: Don't tow Jinker trailers with any Borer Crane

Peter Moss - Thursday, June 08, 2017

Members are advised there are Safety Bans on towing Jinker trailers with any Borer Crane. It has been found that mass limits on the axle capacity have been exceeded on Borer Cranes when Jinker trailers are being towed.

Background.

On Thursday 1st June 2017 a Total Safe was lodged when a Borer Truck fitted with an Ozzy Crane went overweight on the front axles when it was placed on a weigh bridge. Other Ozzy Borer Cranes towing jinker trailers have gone overweight on the rear axle when placed on a weigh bridge. Since Friday last week the ETU has requested that Essential Energy issue a Safety Alert notifying employees but they refuse to do so.

Essential Energy today conceded that the mass limit stipulated by the RMS on the axle groups for the registration category have been exceeded on Ozzy Borers. The ETU is of the view that employees are unable to determine if vehicles are within mass limits when Jinker trailer and poles are being towed with any Borer Crane without putting them over a weigh bridge.

As part of holding a Heavy Vehicle license, it is the operator’s responsibility to make sure these limits are not exceeded. The penalty for overloading a vehicle may exceed $2200 for an individual.  Members are advised not to put themselves or others at risk, or risk being fined by driving any heavy vehicle where you are unable to determine the weight of the load and if it is within mass limits.

The ETU is of the opinion that Essential has failed in their safety obligations to properly notify employees of the potential safety issues by driving overweight heavy vehicles and to implement a safe system of work. As a result the ETU has been left no option but to put this safety ban in place.

Justin Page
Assistant Secretary

EBA Negotiation Updates and latest Ausgrid Job reductions

Bruce Fan - Friday, June 02, 2017

EBA NEGOTATIONS


Whilst there are still several negotiation meetings to take place and the Agreement is by no means settled, negotiations have now progressed sufficiently enough for a report back to all delegates. 


Ausgrid have agreed to a paid delegates meeting as follows;

 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017  10:00-14:00: Silverwater Training Centre Auditorium.

All delegates should attend this important meeting.

 

I have also scheduled a series of paid depot meetings to update members on the negotiations. The schedule is detailed below. All members should make every effort to attend these meetings so as you are briefed on the status of the Agreement negotiations. 

 

AUSGRID PROPOSED JOB REDUCTIONS


Many of you would be aware that yet again Ausgrid is going through another round of significant job cuts with some 300 reductions proposed across a range of Management, Admin / Clerical, para- professional and some trade based roles. 


In accordance with the consultative provisions of the Agreement Ausgrid have been consulting with us in a number of areas where our members are affected including Field Services, Customer and Asset Management. 


We have delegates representing our members in each of these affected areas and if members have concerns they should contact these delegates in the first instance.

 

Along with our delegates I have attended a number of these meetings. It is clear to me that, to the extent that an analysis has been done by Ausgrid to justify the proposed reductions in each area - some heroic assumptions have been made at best. 


At worst, the analysis has been based on cursory guesses, inaccurate information and basically attempts to come up with cuts to satisfy quotas or targets. 


In particular, prior to the consultation commencing, Ausgrid have not sought bottom up data on the work type and volumes so as to be in a position to make accurate judgements on remaining labour capacity. 


As a result we have been making the point that this analysis needs to include feedback from our delegates and members as to what happens in the real world so we can test their assumptions. 


This process is happening right now and I encourage all the consultative groups to put in alternative proposals based on the experience and knowledge of the work type and volume that you all have expertise in. 


Invariably this feedback should in my view result in an upward revision of jobs retained. Credible alternative proposals should always attempt to address and factor in to the proposals productivity and efficiency. 


Whilst I understand why there is a lot of cynicism regarding consultation on these matters – I have on occasions seen such proposals result in retention of positions that would have otherwise been lost- so please proactively participate and influence the outcome.


Download the notice

Ausgrid Transformation Consultative Committee TCC (Mix and Match committee)

Bruce Fan - Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The union has managed to successfully convince Ausgrid of the value in having our delegates directly participate in identifying opportunities for mix and matching permanent roles whereby staff who want to take a VR can do so and allow other staff to gain these permanent roles. Previously this management selected process has not been thorough enough to exhaust opportunities which members were telling us were available but managers were either actively resisting, ignoring or not supporting. What we need and now have is a process which formally allows our delegates to highlight such opportunities.

 

The way the process will work is that the committee has 7 permanent delegates as members of the committee. I have attached the list of permanent committee members. If members are aware of circumstances whereby mix and match opportunities exist they should brief their relevant delegate who will then either take the proposal to one of the nominated committee delegates or join the committee themselves on an as needs basis to present the case directly. I have attached a form, which specifies the details of the case, which members / delegates need to complete for submission to the committee. Fill out as much detail as possible. Management will then inform us as to whether the case can be facilitated and if not why not. To be clear Ausgrid retain final discretion over the decision but the process allows us to thoroughly exhaust all opportunities.

 

Notwithstanding extenuating circumstances, it is important for all members to understand that the ETU is not in the business of securing straight VR’s for people just because they have a desire to leave. This simply leaves our industry with fewer jobs for our members. Our absolute priority is to secure jobs for our members who otherwise do not have permanent employment. To that end we will always support a mix and match back-fill which results in our members achieving a permanent position and that is the function of the committee.


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Fair Work Conciliation Hearing

Paul Lister - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On the 16th May the ETU’s dispute re Work Capacity Assessment Procedure was before DP Sams of the Fair Work Commission. Both sides argued their case if in fact effective consultation had occurred. DP Sams directed the parties to focus on the key issues of difference in relation to the Procedure.

The ETU outlined the following key issues-

  1. The scope of “employees who work on or near the network” is too broad. The Procedure should be restricted to Live Line & Heavy Vehicle employees as there are statutory requirements in place that Work Capacity Assessments must be carried out for these workers.
  2. The Procedure document is deficient in ensuring that employee’s personal medical history details and specific outcomes of the Assessment are kept confidential and not disclosed to Essential.
  3. The Procedure document is deficient in outlining what the blood and urine test will be used for.
  4. If the employee appeals the Work Capacity Assessment outcome and requests an independent Medical Practitioner it should be at the employers cost, not the employees.
  5. The Procedure document is deficient in outlining what happens if an employee is deemed “Unfit for substantive duty –permanently”.

As part of the application the Union applied for an interim order imposing the status quo. Essential opposed the status quo and after much debate it was agreed that the ETU would not pursue status quo at this stage as Essential agreed to meet over the next couple of days to address the 5 key issues in a timely manner.

The parties met directly after the hearing and significant progress was made on issues 2, 3, 4 & 5. The parties are still apart on issue 1.

Essential did clarify that employees are not required to go to their GP and get a full medical history or reports to present to InjuryNET.

Essential clarified that they do not receive any personal information as a result of what the employee discloses to InjuryNET or specific details of the assessment outcome. That information is kept confidential with InjuryNET covered by Privacy Laws. Essential only receives the outcome of the assessment from InjuryNET stating the employee’s current fitness level -“Fit for substantive duty –unconditional”, “Fit for substantive duty –conditional”, Unfit for substantive duty –temporary” or Unfit for substantive duty –permanently”.

The parties committed to work through the issues over the next few days to try and resolve the dispute. The matter was left open with FWC in case resolution cannot be reached.

As the matter is still in dispute, and until the requirements are clarified, the ETU advises that in the interim, members should hold off attending any medical assessment. If you are threatened with discipline, inform the person threatening you that you are exercising your legal right to be represented by your Union and contact your local delegate or Organiser immediately.

Members are reminded you are legally entitled to have ETU Representation in any employment matter including investigations, performance matters, disciplinary matters, safety matters etc.

The ETU will keep members updated on this matters through our ETU workplace delegate’s network, Facebook and via the ETU website.

Justin Page
Assistant Secretary
ETU NSW