Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Ausgrid Tables Really Gross EBA Offer

Paul Lister - Thursday, September 28, 2017
Yesterday the combined unions negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management. Ausgrid tabled theirproposal for the new enterprise agreement. As we expected, management wants mass forced redundancies, unlimited contracting out and a below-inflation wage outcome.


Ausgrid’s proposal is a gross insult. Here are the five key attacks on employees:

  1. Unlimited forced redundancies: Ausgrid would implement unlimited forced redundancies from June 2020 with a package inferior to the current VR package.
  2. Unlimited contracting out: No change to the current contracting out clause means Ausgrid can outsource your work to the lowest bidder.
  3. Changed dispute settlements: Ausgrid could implement change without having to put things on hold until a dispute is resolved with employees and their unions.
  4. Watered down consultation provisions: Ausgrid can just tick boxes and quickly change things without genuine consultation with employees and their unions.
  5. A below-inflation conditional wage rise with no back pay: 2.5% in year 1 and 2% in years 2, 3 & 4 but only if you accept their proposal for a Career, Capability and Remuneration (CCR) framework for which we haven’t even seen translation grades or pay points. In its current form, the CCR would see people progress to higher grades only if their manager likes them.
In addition to these major attacks Ausgrid wants to:

  • Reduce your capacity to take Annual and Long Service Leave at half pay
  • Switch you to a fortnightly pay cycle
  • Reduce the number of occasions you can take sick leave without a certificate from seven down to four
  • Direct when you can take your RDOs.
We welcome Ausgrid’s acceptance of the combined unions’ proposals for:

  • An incentive payment for redeployees of $75K (unions suggested $180K)
  • Improvements to parental leave, and
  • Lactation breaks for mothers.
Ausgrid are yet to understand that negotiations are a two-way process of give and take. Our members have given enough:

A 4-year wage freeze -- Mr. Gross, the Ausgrid Board and their superannuation fund owners IFM and Australian Super would never accept such a freeze on their own remuneration.We have conceded that Ausgrid can have a forced redundancy mechanism after June 2020, but not an unlimited one. It must have a credible cap so that Ausgrid cannot implement mass sackings.

Ausgrid clearly wants to take a lot but are willing to give very little.

We will continue to negotiate with Ausgrid but we are a long way apart. The company’s proposal as it stands is unacceptable to employees. There will be another EBA meeting on Monday 9 October and then a full paid delegates meeting on Wednesday 11 October to determine our next steps which may very well include industrial action. We will keep you informed every step of the way.

They weren't asking for much

Peter Moss - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ausgrid Joint Union EBA Update

Paul Lister - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Over the past 6 to 8 weeks Ausgrid has cancelled and rescheduled several EBA meetings despite continual promises of a documented offer. When the EBA negotiating committee did finally meet on the 29th August the purpose was to introduce their new Ausgrid negotiating team headed up by John Stephens and Hannah McCaughey. For those of you who are not already aware John Stephens led the charge for the successful termination application of Queensland Freight Rail company Aurizon’s EBA’s which eventually resulted in a substandard agreement covering thousands of workers, being forced on rail employees by the FWC.

Under the previous negotiating team led by Trevor Armstrong we believed that some progress was being made towards a negotiated outcome.

The fact that Ausgrid risked sending such a deliberately provocative signal by appointing as their bargaining representative the IR Manager behind this landmark termination decision is revealing.  The Aurizon decision is viewed throughout the union movement as symptomatic of the fundamental problem in today’s Australia.   The rules are broken – the rules which reign over EBA negotiations in 2017 promote job insecurity, loss of conditions without a pay rise that comes even close to any real form of compensation.    

When the ETU pressed this matter with the CEO Richard Gross, he maintains that Ausgrid “has no intention of pursuing a termination application”. We shall see if he keeps his word in due course.

Our view is that if Ausgrid present a document on 27th September it will still contain the two job destroying clauses that we are insisting need to be modified before we can reach agreement;

  1. Unlimited forced redundancies from June 2020 onwards and
  2. The current contracting out clause which allows Ausgrid to contract out work at much lower rates of pay and conditions – thereby undercutting our members job security.

We also believe Ausgrid will probably also re-introduce nasties that had been pretty much agreed on as being off the table a few months ago including the removal of status quo provisions during disputes and short-circuiting and watering down of consultation. We will obviously see how accurate these predictions are on the 27th September.

The message we are getting from members could not be clearer - negotiations have gone on for far too long and we have given enough.

In 2012 Ausgrid had some 6,000 employees – 5 years later that workforce has been slashed by about 30% to around 4,000. Our members have been subject to a 3-year wage freeze while Ausgrid executive salaries continue to rise unabated.

We have conceded to the company during the negotiations that they can have a forced redundancy mechanism post June 2020 - but that we want a cap on how many can be exited per annum and we don’t want them to have the ability to contract out our members work to the lowest bidder. Ausgrid’s response has been pretty much to the following effect;

“thanks for that we’ll take your concessions but not only are we not giving anything in return – we want more concessions including unlimited forced redundancies and the ability to contract out work on whatever rates of pay and conditions we want”.

Meanwhile Ausgrid continue to act like corporate renegades by offshoring GIS roles to India and getting rid of another 11 emergency contact centre roles by abolishing the Sydney contact centre.

The time is approaching for matters to come to a head. Once Ausgrid has presented their offer we will convene a meeting of the combined union delegates and based on the feedback from that meeting and the reaction to Ausgrid’s offer we will discuss our options under the Fair Work Act including taking protected industrial action.

Fair Work to determine scope of Essential Energy medical assessments

Peter Moss - Thursday, September 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.

The parties met a number of times and where back before DP Sams on 29th August 2017. The ETU had identified 11 changes we required to the Procedure. The parties were able to agree on 10 of those changes and they have been incorporated into the Procedure.
DP Sams will determine the outstanding issue of scope.

• The ETU’s position is the scope of employees to be assessed should be Live Line & Heavy Vehicle employees which under statutory requirements, Work Capacity Assessments must be carried.

• Essential’s position is any employee who works on or near the network.

During October both parties will make submissions to DP Sams who will then determine the scope to apply to the Procedure.
Improvements the ETU was able to make to the procedure include:

• An added step in the process where an employee is deemed “Unfit for substantive duty –permanently”. An assessment will be made of the employee’s capabilities and limitations. As part of this process Essential Energy will explore the possibility of a suitable alternate role. If no alternate role can be agreed, the employee will be put on Personal leave. Essential Energy may terminate the employee’s employment in accordance with the industrial instrument in place at the time.

• Improved the procedure to ensure employee’s personal medical history details and specific outcomes of the Assessment are kept confidential and not disclosed to Essential.

• Improved wording around workers compensation, payment & costs, assessments to occur in paid time & the dispute resolution process if an employee disputes the assessment outcome.

Have you given Essential consent to obtain private medical history?

Essential have now agreed to write to employees who have completed the wrong Essential Energy Work Capacity Assessment Musculoskeletal and Functional Assessment forms which has given Essential Energy consent to obtain your private medical information through the your treating Doctor’s and other Health Practitioners.

Those employees will then need to sign a new consent form which will revoke the consent to ensure Essential cannot access your private medical history.

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

Endeavour Energy New EBA Negotiations Update

Paul Lister - Friday, September 08, 2017

Dear Members,

Yesterday the ETU and other Unions conducted a joint full delegates meeting at the Liverpool Catholic Club, Hoxton Park in preparation for the new round of EBA negotiations which will be commencing next Thursday 14th Sept 2017.

The purpose of this delegates meeting was to endorse our negotiating team and discuss/debate and endorse the new claims that your negotiating team will be focused on throughout these negotiations to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all members to vote on…(hopefully). 

We will be discussing the new claims at the meeting next week with the Company’s new negotiating team.  If you wish to discuss these claims please talk to your local delegate who attended yesterday’s delegates meeting.  The claims will be distributed post our meeting next week.

Your elected ETU Bargaining reps for these negotiations are;

  • Noel Mahon, Technologist - Glendenning Depot
  • Ellen McNally, Call Centre - Springhill Depot
  • Nick McWhirter (Snr), Project/Contract Inspector - Huntingwood
  • Brad Rossitter, Live Linesmen - Shellharbour Depot
  • Chris Tyrrell, Transmission - Narellan Depot
  • Jareth Woosley, EFM - Bowenfels Depot
  • Tony McCarthy, EMSO - Penrith Depot
  • Troy Fewings, Manager/Specialist - Springhill Depot
  • David J Campbell, Ops Manager - Hoxton Park Depot
  • Nathan Gale, Systems Operation - Huntingwood

and the ETU.

Further updates will be forthcoming as information comes to light or the situation demands it.

Remember, your safety is paramount to you, your family and your work colleagues…DON’T cut corners…it’s not worth it !

Yours in unity,
Brad Currey
Organiser

AUSGRID’S $6 PER HOUR OFFSHORE JOBS

Peter Moss - Thursday, August 31, 2017

AUSGRID’S $6 PER HOUR OFFSHORE JOBS

CONTRACTOR TCS ACCUSED OF VISA RORTS, WAGE THEFT & DISCRIMINATION ACROSS FOUR CONTINENTS

Indian workers set to take over up to 35 skilled Ausgrid jobs will be paid around $6 per hour.

An ETU investigation reveals Ausgrid’s contractor Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) faces allegations of wage theft, visa rorts, mass sackings and discrimination in Australia, North America, the UK and India.

Ausgrid is part-owned by Australian Super and IFM Investors, a consortium of industry superannuation funds.

Here is some background on the giant Indian company now in bed with Ausgrid:

AUSTRALIA: TCS ACCUSED OF RORTING 457 VISAS

One of India's largest IT companies has been accused of misusing 457 visas to bring foreign workers into Australia.

Employees of TCS say the company relies on foreign workers, even in areas where there are no skills shortages.

"I was never asked to advertise for any Australians when developers were required," one worker said. "We just contacted the local area manager and he would send a developer on the next plane from Mumbai."

Click Here to Read the News Report.

US: TCS PAYS US$29.75 MILLION IN WAGE THEFT CLASS ACTION

Tata Consultancy Services agreed to pay $29.75 million to settle a class-action law suit in the United States.

Former employees had accused TCS in 2006 of forcing all non-U.S.-citizen workers to sign over their U.S. federal and state tax refund cheques to the company. Tata also deducted their Indian wages from their compensation, the suit alleged.

Click Here to Read the News Report.

US: TCS ACCUSED OF DISCRIMINATING AGAINST LOCALS

The lawsuit claims the India-based Tata has a "grossly disproportionate workforce," with 95 percent of the 14,000 Tata U.S. workers to be South Asian or of South Asia descent.

Plaintiff Steven Heldt, who worked almost two years at Tata, blames the discrimination on the extensive hiring of H-1B workers – foreign nationals who are hired on a visa (equivalent to Australian 457).

Click Here to Read the News Report.

US/INDIA: TCS ACCUSED OF EXPLOITATION, UNDERPAYMENT, INTIMIDATION

Global giants Tata Consultancy Services made workers sign restrictive employment agreements before they leave India for the US, according to interviews and company documents.

Kaushik says Tata contracted him out to work 14-hour days without overtime pay as a computer programmer for Carnival Cruise Lines in South Florida.

“I worked from 9am to 11pm almost every night and never got paid overtime,” Kaushik said. “I thought, ‘Why am I working with this company?’”.

Click Here to Read the News Report. 

US: TCS FINED US$940 MILION FOR RIPPING OFF TRADE SECRETS & SOFTWARE

A US grand jury has slapped Tata Consultancy Service with a US$940 million fine in a trade secret lawsuit filed against them. 

Epic Systems had accused TCS of “brazenly stealing trade secrets, confidential information, documents and data”.

Click Here to Read the News Report.

CANADA: TCS ACCUSED OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LOCALS IN FAVOUR OF CHEAP LABOUR

A former TCS manager said the company rarely hires skilled, experienced Canadians.

"I wanted to hire Canadians, but I was told no," said the former manager. "I had to hire Indian people [as temporary foreign workers], and they didn’t have the skills."

Click Here to Read the News Report.

UK: TCS ACCUSED OF VISA RORTS AND MASSIVE UNDERPAYMENTS

Major union GMB alleged that TCS was "in breach of immigration rules by paying workers as little as 10,000 British pound per annum, when Home Office rules require a minimum yearly wage of 24,800 British pound”.

Click Here to Read the News Report.

INDIA: IT WORKERS AFRAID TO JOIN UNIONS

There is a fear among the employees to join a union and displease the management.

Click Here to read the News Report.

INDIA: IT WORKERS AND UNIONS FIGHT MASS SACKINGS BY TCS

13 disputes over forced resignations and  layoffs at IT organizations have been moved to the labor courts after failed mediation attempts by state labor authorities.

Click Here to Read the News Report.

 

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