Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Essential Energy EA Update 6 November

Paul Lister - Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Your negotiating team, unions and Essential Energy met today however we have not yet reached a position close to agreement. A number of differences remain and these include:

  • Contracting out clause
  • Redundancy
  • Leading Hands/On Call issues, and
  • Scope

After consulting our legal team, the unions have proposed that the Scope issue be dealt with in the Fair Work Commission by way of a consent arbitration and that both parties should accept the decision of the court whatever that may be. The unions believe we have a strong argument and that we should let the court decide this matter.

On the other matters we have agreed to again meet with the company with the aim of reaching agreement on Monday next week, however should the company not be prepare to move on these matters that unions will be forced to consider what action may be necessary in order to achieve an acceptable outcome, this may include making application to the Fair Work Commission to recommence protected industrial action.

Negotiations continue to be slow and tedious but we will keep all members up to date on any developments.

Essential Energy EA update 1 November

Paul Lister - Friday, November 01, 2013

I am writing to provide an update on the status of EA negotiations with Essential Energy.

As you are aware the unions last week withdrew the planned protected industrial action for this week (we would have been on strike today if that notice had not been withdrawn) to enable the union to continue negotiations with the most senior Essential Energy bosses.

This was not an easy decision but necessary to continue to show our commitment to good faith negotiations.

Next week is critical in the negotiations and there is a fair amount going on, as follows;

  • Monday 4 November at 1030 the ETU is in court at the Fair Work Commission to extend our protected action period by a further 30 days. At present our protected action period would end on 15 November but with the extra 30 days this will take is up to 15 December.  Without the extra 30 days our last day to give notice of intention to take industrial action is Tuesday 5 November.
  • Monday 4 November Essential Energy to have the DRAFT document and the redundancy policy to the unions in the morning.
  • Monday 4 November the ETU lawyers and the Essential Energy lawyers are scheduled to meet to discuss options on the Scope argument at 2pm.
  • Monday 4 November the ETU and Vince Graham to meet at 3pm to review the Scope and the DRAFT document, including the union model clauses and the Redundancy Policy.
  • Tuesday 5 November all parties will further consider and review the DRAFT document and the positions on Scope (Good luck in the Melbourne Cup).
  • Tuesday 5 November the last day the Union can give formal notice of industrial action within the first 30 day period.
  • Wednesday 6 November the employee negotiating committee meets at the ETU offices in Sydney at 10am to see if there is any progress on the agreement.

The ETU will advise members of the progress of the negotiation and depending on what happens there will be communication with delegate’s on Tuesday 5 November at midday or Wednesday 6 November around 2pm. Delegate’s will be notified in the usual manner.

These negotiations are complex and have required the use of legal experts including barristers.  It makes you wonder how workplaces without Union representation would manage if the negotiations went as pear shaped as they have been at Essential Energy. Management would have ALL the power and the workers would suffer.

It’s a good reason to JOIN YOUR UNION.

Yours in Unity,
Steve Butler

Essential Energy EA Update 29 October

Paul Lister - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Unions met with Vince Graham today to try and get some sense into the negotiations for a new Enterprise Agreement. There has been a fair bit of debate about how we might be able to finalise any agreement and a continuing frustration with management about progress.

As a result, the ETU has today made application to extend our period for protected industrial action by a further 30 days so we can ensure that, if necessary, we are able to take protected action if negotiations fail to deliver an acceptable outcome for members. The ETU believes all clauses must have legal standing and that in addition to Vince Graham’s correspondence of 24 October there must be appropriate protections in place.

The following has been identified as a possible way forward.

  • A combined meeting of the Unions and Essential Energy’s lawyers to review options in relation to Scope – possible outcomes may include:-
    • Essential to continue with the present application before the courts, which the unions will oppose.
    • A process where the parties request the courts to make a decision about Scope through consent arbitration.
    • A variation of the present agreement to include new agreed clauses/provisions that would leave the Scope issue “as is”.

The ETU will meet with our lawyers to determine what we believe is the best option for our members.

  • Management to provide a DRAFT document, with the previously agreed clauses included. This will be based on the 2011 agreement and will be provided to unions by Monday 4 November.
  • Management to provide a DRAFT redundancy policy, with the unions preferred model clauses included. This will also be provided to unions by Monday 4 November.
  • A meeting to take place with union representatives and Vince Graham on Monday 4 November to review the DRAFT document.
  • A meeting of the bargaining committee on Wednesday 6 November to review the DRAFT document.
  • Negotiations to continue to finalise the agreement, including the Scope issue, prior to a DRAFT Agreement being circulated for a vote.
  • Ex Deputy President Grayson to chair negotiating meetings to assist the parties in their deliberations.

The ETU remains cautious in relation to this process. We have advised management that we are seeking to reach a position that allows the document to go to a vote, however, the ETU continues to reserve our right to recommence protected industrial action if necessary.

There will be further updates for members in relation to these negotiations as they progress – these will all be available here on the ETU website. 

Essential Energy EA Industrial Update

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 24, 2013

Members are advised that following the ETU providing notification to Essential Energy of our intention to take industrial action (including returning to depots for lunch, not operating padlocks and work stoppages) the CEO of Network NSW, Vince Graham, has requested the union suspend this action in order to hold further negotiations.

Members can read Vince Grahams letter here where he outlines a number of proposals in order to try and reach agreement.

Following a meeting with your negotiation team today, the ETU has agreed to suspend all planned industrial action (including returning to depots for lunch, not operating padlocks and work stoppages) in order to allow further negotiations to occur.

Should these negotiations not be successful the ETU and our members reserve our right to lodge further notifications for future industrial action until such time as an acceptable outcome is achieved.

A meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday 29 October that will include Vince Graham and Gary Humphries.

We will keep members up to date on any developments and members should check the ETU website (Electricity, Water & Utilities section) on a regular basis for updates.

Vince Graham Suspends Drug Testing

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 24, 2013

The ETU has been advised that Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy have withdrawn their program of saliva based drug testing while another court case is undertaken by Endeavour Energy over a July 2013 notification from NATA in relation to accreditation.

The ETU remains convinced that the use of saliva testing is the most accurate and least invasive form of testing as previously determined by the Fair Work Commissions decision of 26th March 2012 and the subsequent rejection of the Endeavour Energy appeal to the Full Bench on the 14th August 2012.

All three organisations have taken the same approach but the ETU believe they are wrong and the Unions have assembled the same legal team who
were successful in the original decision and represented the Unions interests at the failed Endeavour Energy appeal.

The matter is listed for appearance before Fair Work in the week commencing 25th November 2013.

The ETU will keep members up to date on the progress of this case. Any questions can be directed to your workplace delegate or contact details for your organiser can be found here for Sydney, NewcastleWollongong and Canberra.

Essential Energy Protected Action

Paul Lister - Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Essential Energy members are advised that notification has been given to Essential Energy for rolling stoppages covering Friday 1 November.

Please see below the official notification to Essential Energy that covers stoppages on Friday 1 November.

Further details relating this action will be forthcoming once finalised.

s414 notice - rolling stoppages Friday 1 November 

NSW Bushfires

Paul Lister - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Over the past week many parts of NSW have been engulfed by bushfires with the hardest hit areas being the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, parts of the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie and Newcastle around Heatherbrae and Raymond Terrace.

I know many of our members live and work in these areas and I am asking each and every one of us to keep an eye out for fellow ETU members that may have been affected by these fires.

If you know of any ETU members that have been impacted by the fires through loss of property or if you have been impacted yourself, I would like to know so please call the office on 02 9267 4844 and the union will consider what assistance may be available.

I would also like to extend a massive thank you to ETU members that have once again put the community first by responding to this emergency situation to make sure the electricity network, rail corridor and our communities remain safe.  We all know who the real heroes are – people like you, who work within the fire ground protecting the community.

Again, if you are aware of any ETU member that requires assistance following these destructive fires please get in touch. To the rest of you thanks for your hard work, selflessness and community spirit.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler

Essential Energy Protected Action

Paul Lister - Monday, October 21, 2013

Essential Energy members are advised that Protected Industrial Action will commence on Wednesday 30 October and will continue indefinitely.

Initially the action will consist of the following:

  • Returning to your depot for your lunch break, and
  • A ban on using Essential Energy keys to open or close Essential Energy padlocks with the exception of depot gates.

All members should observe the above action and report any issues immediately to your ETU delegate or organiser.

This collective action is being taken in order to secure outstanding log items in the current EBA including acceptable Redundancy Clause, On Call Allowances and Permanent Leading Hand arrangements.

Below you will find the notices as lodged with the Fair Work Commission covering your protected action.

s414 notice - Return to depot for lunch break

s414 notice - Ban on using Essential Energy Keys to open/close padlocks



Essential Energy Members Support Industrial Action

Paul Lister - Friday, October 18, 2013

You are probably aware the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) yesterday published the results of the protected action ballot that has been running for the past three weeks. I would simply like to confirm those results for ETU members and add a bit of commentary in relation to the outcome from the protected action ballot.

The ETU supplied a confidential list of ETU members to the Australian Electoral Commission as required for the ballot on the 23rd of September 2013.  As you know, Essential Energy supplied a list to the AEC that the ETU successfully argued did not properly cover the Order that was made by the Fair Work Commission. By the time the company did supply a further list of names the Australian Electoral Commission had closed the ballot, meaning that those employees were denied the right to vote.

I have just had a look at the Declaration of results issued by the AEC and I am extremely concerned to see that the variation in numbers supplied by the ETU and the ballots issued by the AEC is close to 10% and that position must now be thoroughly investigated to establish why there is such a large variation, it is possible that Essential Energy supplied a list that denied the voting rights of up to 10% of ETU members employed by Essential Energy.

The figures from the ballot are staggering and given the fact that postal ballots are notoriously difficult to get employees to vote on, especially in areas where there are remote locations, to get over 65% of ETU members voting is indicative of the strong views of members in relation to this ballot. If the proper list had of been supplied to the AEC then i believe that number would have been closer to 75%.

When the actual voting is analysed then the results are clear and members have sent management a very strong message about their agreement.


As a result of discussions and consultation with your ETU delegates, the ETU will begin to make 7 day notifications as required under the legislation of our intention to take industrial action. Essential Energy will probably try and get you to vote on their unchanged agreement and members are advised to vote NO in any Enterprise Agreement ballot that is attempted in the next little while. We will be running a NO campaign if management attempt that trick and the ETU will provide further advice as it comes to hand. 

Yours in unity
Steve Butler

Protected Action Ballot Result

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 17, 2013

Preliminary results show approximately 60% of ETU members returned ballot papers & have resoundingly supported the protected action ballot. We will report more when we receive the official AEC report. Members have responded to the management’s attacks on their conditions & classifications. 60% return for a protected action ballot is considered a great return. Management pulled out all stops to not provide all members details to the AEC in time to be included in the ballot. The other Unions also had positive results to the ballot question.

ETU Results were as follows
Question 1: 92% YES 
Question 2: 84% YES 
Question 3: 94% YES 
Question 4: 92% YES

I would like to congratulate members for standing up & sending a clear message to your management. Your management will try to talk down the result, remember management wanted members to vote no. In the end the number of members that voted NO were bugger all!

All members covered by the 2011 EBA are now eligible to participate in protected industrial action. Below you can view the AEC ballot result and declaration.

Yours in Unity

AEC Ballot Result & Declaration