Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Ausgrid Update - 26 October

Paul Lister - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dear Colleague.

As you are aware Australian Super and IFM made a successful bid to purchase a 50.4% share in Ausgrid, the acceptance of the bid was reported in the media on Monday the 20th October 2016.

I am advised that the sale process will take another five weeks or so to complete putting the transfer date for the new owners at about the 24th November 2016.

I have been assured that meetings with the new owners will take place and we are awaiting a confirmed date.

The primary issues that the ETU are pursuing are the same as those we have been campaigning for with Ausgrid management and the NSW Government over the past two years and that is job security along with a degree of certainty for workers employed by Ausgrid.

Ausgrid management have briefed the Unions today on the immediate future and there is a lack of any concrete information and the only offering to come from the company today was that they will be intent on keeping everyone informed of the progress of the sale and that Q&A documents will be updated and provided.

Ausgrid have advised that they want to continue the negotiations around the administrative matters that are outstanding in the agreement but they cannot give any undertakings on any sign off and will be acting on instructions from the new owners.

Ausgrid have also indicated that at the completion of the sale a new board will be appointed and that the company will have to issue new representational rights letter to all employees covered by the enterprise agreement after the transaction is completed. The Union will seek advice on if the reissuing of representational rights letters is required for the bargaining to continue.

The combined Unions have requested a Union delegates meeting to enable delegates to provide feedback from workers and to be updated on what is going on.

Further detail will be provided as it comes to hand.

Yours in solidarity

Steve Butler
Secretary

ETU Newcaslte Have Moved

Paul Lister - Monday, October 24, 2016

The ETU office is Newcastle has relocated to the following address:

Hunter Workers Building
Suite 4B
Ground Floor
406-408 King Street
Newcastle West  NSW  2302

Phone, fax and email remain unchanged:

Phone: 02 4968 2488
Fax: 02 4968 3466
Email: etunewcastle@etunsw.asn.au

Notice to Member - The 50.4% sale of Ausgrid

Bruce Fan - Friday, October 21, 2016

Yesterday the state government announced the 50.4% sale of Ausgrid for $16.189 billion. The government refers to this amount as “gross proceeds” which is code for; once we pay the debt down that we owe, the “net proceeds” to the public are a mere $6 billion. The buyer is a consortium consisting of IFM and Australian Super.

The transfer of a publicly owned monopoly asset in to private hands is never a good thing because inevitably the profit motive of a monopoly private owner results in higher prices and lower service and the loss of a revenue generating asset to the public. As private owners go – we could do worse than an Australian Super fund.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler has said that he understands the sale process will take another five weeks and during that time the ETU will be talking to senior IFM and Australian Super management. The ETU will be seeking a commitment from the new owners to honour the job security measures contained in the sales act legislation. These include the maintenance of the minimum mandated employee numbers, 5 year job guarantees for continuing employees and associated no forced redundancy provisions.
It is time for Ausgrid management to stop going down the path they have been on which is to contradict that legislation and introduce forced redundancies.
We will keep you informed of developments as they occur.

Unions demand new Ausgrid owners commit to maintain existing employment and service standards

Bruce Fan - Thursday, October 20, 2016
Power unions have demanded that the new owners of a controlling stake in Australia’s largest electricity distribution network, Ausgrid, commit to a legally binding agreement that ensures existing employment numbers and service standards are retained at the privatised business.

Their demand follow today’s announcement by NSW Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer GladysBerejiklian that AustralianSuper and IFM Investors would take 50.4 per cent ownership in the company, delivering a one-off windfall of $6 billion to NSW after debt is repaid.
The Electrical Trades Union and United Services Union, which represent the majority of Ausgrid workers, will also continue their work with Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile to deliver water-tight job protections through the NSW Parliament.
“We are continuing to work with Fred Nile and others in the NSW Parliament to ensure ironclad laws are in place to protect the jobs of Ausgrid workers and service standards for consumers under private ownership,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.
“This process is particularly important given Ausgrid management have previously flagged their intention to test the legal standing of existing protections through the Fair Work Commission.
“We are also demanding that the new owners, AustralianSuper and IFM Investors, publicly commit to retain all existing workers, to abide by the five-year job guarantees negotiated by the parliament prior to this sale, and to maintain the high standard of service that Ausgrid customers
currently receive.”
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said the unions would be writing to AustralianSuper and IFM Investors seeking an urgent meeting to discuss staff protections and the future operations at the company.
“Electricity distribution is a natural monopoly,” Mr Kelly said. “That means that if service standards drop, if maintenance is reduced or emergency response times blowout, consumers have no ability to choose an alternative supplier for their power.
“That is why unions have fought against this sale from day one, and why we will continue to fight to ensure the best possible outcome for workers and consumers going forward.
“Today’s announcement will not see us back away from our commitment to protect the jobs of our members and the services that Ausgrid provides to the people of NSW.”
Media comment: Steve Butler (ETU) 0414 877 679 / Graeme Kelly (USU) 0417 420 919

Notice To Member - EBA 2014 Update

Bruce Fan - Monday, October 17, 2016

At our last EBA meeting, held on Thursday 13th Oct 2016, Endeavour Energy tabled a revised “EBA Offer” as a “Package”. An outlined summary copy of this “Package” has been attached for your perusal, consideration and feedback to be provided to your workplace Delegate for a Joint Union FULL Delegates Meeting to be held at the Liverpool Catholic Club on Thursday 27th October 2016.

All feedback from the Delegates will be consolidated and this feedback will be the directions your EBA negotiating team will base a response to Endeavour Energy Management.

Throughout ALL these discussions, your elected ETU Negotiating Team has stood fast on the members endorsed positions, ie;

  1. NO TRADE OFF’s,
  2. JOB SECURITY, AND                                   None has been addressed
  3. A REASONABLE WAGE INCREASE.

Please see the Outline of Endeavour Energy’s Proposal below. EnE are selling it under 3 items; “Efficient Competitor”, “Flexibility & Change” and “Matching Employee Numbers to Work Requirements”.

Efficient Competitor:

1.  3 year agreement expiring on 24 December 2017

2.  2.5% Wage increase effective from the date of a successful vote of the agreement being reached

3.  Freeze ESRA at $120.00

4.  Change ESRA to a flat allowance

5.  Freeze ELA at $32.80

6. Allow the Company to change employees start and finish time within the span of hours set out in the Enterprise Agreement, for up to 4 weeks by giving 1 weeks’ notice to meet customers’ needs

7. Change the overtime travelling allowance clause to only count extra travel distance only where travel required is more than the distance to their depot

8.  Place a salary cap on coverage of the Enterprise Agreement for contract employees (currently

$169,855 including superannuation)


9.  Preserve current conditions for contract employees who now fall under the EBA (and provide them with the 2.5% wage increase) via an appendix to the Agreement.

10. Freeze maturing allowance at its current value for all employees who are eligible.

a.    Employees over 55 will be allowed to cash out the frozen entitlement at any time

b.   Employees under 55 will have their frozen entitlement indexed until they are 55

11. Increase shift allowance for the Contact Centre to align with the payment levels of the Network    Shift Work Agreement

Flexibility and Change:

1.   Revise Consultation clause to:

a.   Require consultation when a decision is made not a proposal floated

b.   Focus on impacted employees and not necessarily require a committee

c.     Have no requirement for an agreement on a consultation plan

2.   Alter disputes clause to remove status quo after 5 working days if dispute not notified to FWC

3.   Revise outsourcing/contracting out clause to align with recommendations of FWC

Matching Employee Number to Work Requirements:

 

1. Voluntary Redundancy – where an employee elects to take a management approved voluntary redundancy or is able to take redundancy as a result of a management approved mix and match process they will receive:

a.    4 or 5 weeks’ notice depending on age and length of service;

b.    8 week redundancy incentive payment;

c.     2 weeks per year of service redundancy payment;

d.   Maturing allowance if applicable; and

e.   Legal entitlements to annual leave and long service leave.

Employees in these circumstances will not transfer to Redeployment before leaving

2.   Where an employee is in a position that is made redundant by the Company and they are in turn transferred to Redeployment the following will apply:

a.  They will be given an extended notice period of 26 weeks which will commence 2 weeks after

the date of the written notice of their transfer to Redeployment;

b.  Where the redeployee elects to leave prior to the end of the 26 week period they will be paid out the remaining balance of their extended notice period;

c.  In addition to any payment of the balance of the extended notice period they will get:

I.          2 weeks per year of service redundancy payment;

II.        2 weeks additional redundancy pay for an employee with less than 5 years’ service;

III.       Maturing allowance if applicable; and

IV.       Legal entitlements to annual leave and long service leave.


d.   The total payment for redundancy and extended notice will be capped 78 weeks’ pay;

e. The extended notice period will be paused where an employee goes on an approved secondment, so that any time a redeployee spends in a funded secondment position will not be counted as part of their extended notice period however, time spent in a meaningful work position, any period of leave or any other time will be counted as part of their extended notice period;

f.  The Company will pay a $2,000 training fund for each person in redeployment;

g.  If a permanent role is not found for the redeployee within their 26 week extended notice period they can be subject to forced redundancy with payment in accordance with 4 (c);

h.   Where an employee has been in redeployment for in excess of 26 weeks at the operative date

of the agreement they will have a notice period of 13 weeks

i.   In each of calendar years 2017, 2018 and 2019 we would set a cap of 20 people from

Redeployment who could be subject to forced redundancy under these arrangements;

j.   There would be no cap on forced redundancies from 1 January 2020 onwards;

k.  Employees currently in Redeployment at the effective date of the agreement will only be eligible for an extended notice period of 13 weeks.

l.   This would be implemented through a revised policy which would be included as an Annexure

to the Agreement.

There will be other variations required to the EBA to comply with the National Employment Standards, Fair Work Act and other minor changes. These have been discussed and relate to the following:

•  Compassionate leave (to include leave for a life threatening illness or injury)

•  Carer’s leave (to include leave for an unexpected emergency)

•  Absence benefit scheme (reference to NES prevailing if more beneficial)

•  Domestic Violence (a slight change to the contact people and their training)

Again, please provide your feedback to your local Delegate for the FULL Delegates Meeting, 27th Oct 2016, at Liverpool Catholic Club…starting at 10:00am. Please be there about 9:30am.

Ausgrid Update - 14 October

Paul Lister - Friday, October 14, 2016

Dear Colleagues

AGREEMENT NEGOTIATIONS

Over the past few weeks we have had a series of meetings regarding EBA negotiations, which have been pre-occupied with attempting to fashion a better worded set of clauses to improve interpretation around overtime. The meetings have also discussed the subjects of the Agreement coverage cut off point for determining those who can be covered by the Agreement and the associated transition schedules. This issue largely affects people on senior contract who wish to move on to the Agreement. The meetings have also discussed allowances associated with qualifications for people who are covered by the Professionals Managers and Specialists Agreement. In terms of the bigger picture, to date we have not had any proposition by Ausgrid that indicates a way forward on resolving the inherent contradiction between Ausgrid’s position of forced redundancies and the 5 year job guarantees enshrined in the legislation. These 5 year job guarantees of course have consistently underpinned our fundamental position of no forced redundancies and will continue to do so.

PHASE 2 REDEPLOYMENT

“Reform affected” employees in the Hunter and Ourimbah regions will this week be informed as to whether or not they are identified as redeployees or retained as employees. Redeployees will have access to retraining and / or voluntary redundancy and so long as they are participating in that training and actively seeking work (both within and outside the organization) salary maintenance applies in accordance with the terms of the Ausgrid Agreement and the associated Redeployment and Salary Maintenance Policy. Remember – no one can be forced out because there are no forced redundancies. This is due to our success at the Fair Work Commission in stopping Ausgrid from successfully arguing that they could introduce forced redundancies.

ACTING ORGANISER AUSGRID - ANTHONY O'SULLIVAN

I have been seconded in to an organising role for Unions NSW for a period of 4 weeks commencing Monday 17th November 2016. Ausgrid Delegate Anthony O’Sullivan will be performing my duties for this time. Anthony is an experienced delegate and has recently acted as Organiser for Endeavour Energy. During this time please direct all enquiries to Anthony and I will continue to liaise with him on ongoing matters requiring my attention. Please give Anthony as much support and assistance as possible during this time.

Anthony O’Sullivan's Contact Details:
Mobile: 0467 565 902
Email: anthonyo@etunsw.asn.au

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

Essential Workplace Determination Update

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Fair Work full bench HAS NOT yet handed down their decision on our agreement which will impact ETU members employed at Essential Energy. The decision may be days or weeks away but the ETU want to ensure members are prepared when the decision is finally delivered.

The consultation provisions that will be included in any decision mean that management have a requirement to consult with employees over any plans on major change, and given managements vigorous arguments about forced redundancy management will be hoping to get rid of workers should the Full Bench rule in favour of forced redundancy.

The obligation to consult means the company will be required to discuss changes with employees prior to taking any action and workers will be able to tell management that they want the ETU involved in any discussions, ETU members are strongly advised to tell the company they want the ETU involved at all times. If Essential Energy do not consult they will be in breach of the workplace determination and the ETU will take the company to court, again!!  

I have spoken to your new CEO, John Cleland, who advised that he has been well received by employees on his visits around Essential Energy depots.  Unfortunately my suggestion about jointly developing protocols around the workplace determination were dismissed.

ETU members are advised to immediately contact the ETU if management approach them about any type of change within the organisation, including, but not limited to, any interpretation on redundancy. 

I do not know what will be in the final workplace determination to be handed down by the Full Bench but I believe we should prepare ourselves for all possible outcomes, including those that may impact on some members. This will be a time where we may all need to work through an array of situations.

The full extent of the provisions and entitlements in the workplace determination will be further detailed once the determination has been handed down.

Over the coming weeks and months it is important for members to stick together and support each other, the ETU will continue to fight for the rights of our members.  

In Unity,

Steve Butler
Secretary

Ausgrid Update - 20 September

Paul Lister - Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dear Colleague,

Agreement negotiations

Ausgrid CEO Trevor Armstrong has made contact with the ETU and wishes to revive Agreement negotiations in the wake of the stalled privatization of Ausgrid. A meeting of the negotiating committee will take place on Wednesday 28th September to discuss the matter. As already reported, Ausgrid have previously rejected the selfless offer made by members for a wage freeze in return for no forced redundancies. It will be interesting to see what Ausgrid’s position is in the wake of the Foreign Investment Review Board decision not to sell Ausgrid to Chinese interests. Whatever Ausgrid’s position, we will not be in the business of undermining the 5 year job guarantees that were part of the accepted amendments moved by upper house MLC Fred Nile which ultimately became part of the legislation which permitted the selloff. The intention of those guarantees has been made abundantly clear by Fred Nile who has vowed to ensure that they are honored by the government. I will update you after the meeting.

 

Phase 2 Redeployment

Employees in the Hunter and Ourimbah regions are currently being subjected to Ausgrid’s process of determining who ends up as redeployees and who has a job. Sydney based employees will go through the same process in October. I am told managers are going around stating to employees that the whole thing was endorsed by the union and that people should just go along with it. This is typical Ausgrid spin of course. The ETU does not endorse Ausgrid destroying jobs. We fundamentally disagree with and fought against a proposition which says that Ausgrid needs to make people surplus when there is plenty of work to be done. Ultimately however, we have to try and get the best out of the process that we can for members and so we were heavily involved in the process of consultation on how it would be implemented. As a result of that consultation the assessment is much more weighted towards actual skills and capabilities than Ausgrid were originally proposing and most importantly has a review and appeals mechanism which members should utilize if they feel they have been unfairly treated. Please contact your workplace delegate or myself if you wish to pursue such matters.

 

Disciplinary Procedures

I continue to be involved in disciplinary processes with members who, without representation, attend a so called “informal fact finding” interview. The statements made at these interviews are then subsequently used against the member in dishing out punishment in a formal disciplinary process. I reiterate to all members the importance of not attending any interviews, whether informal or not, without representation from at least a workplace ETU delegate. Ausgrid will use these interviews against you as part of their final decision making process and so you must always have representation at these interviews.

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

Essential Energy Arbitration Final Submissions.

Paul Lister - Friday, September 16, 2016

The Essential Energy arbitration matter returned to the Fair Work Commission today for final submissions from all parties. Essentially there have been no new developments today with both sides reiterating their position on the various matters subject to arbitration.

Some of the items raised today included Essential Energy tabling a proposed clause that would permit the Fair Work Commission to decide if status quo should apply for each individual dispute in the future. Under this proposal the union would have to place the company into dispute and may seek status quo by making an application to the Fair Work Commission who would determine if status quo should apply and for what period. This proposal was raised in conjunction with matters relating to the ability to lodge disputes regarding the full employee/employer relationship and the ability for either party to pursue arbitration if desired.

The combined unions, following advice from our legal team, agree that the above provision is a better outcome than the total loss of status quo, a position that we believe the Fair Work Commission may be leaning towards if not agreed between the parties.

Essential also submitted that they require involuntary redundancy moving forward under either a capped or uncapped model. Under the capped model the company proposed that any voluntary redundancy should not count towards the forced redundancy cap.

THE COMBINED UNIONS REITERATED THAT OUR POSITION HAS NOT CHANGED – WE REMAIN OPPOSED TO ANY PROVISION FOR FORCED REDUNDANCY. The unions legal team further argued that should the Full Bench adopt a capped involuntary redundancy approach, that VR for identified employees/positions should be counted under the cap provision to provide effect to the cap. Without this approach a so called capped approach will essentially become open slather redundancy program.

The contracting out clause was also discussed at length with the company arguing that a dedicated contracting out clause is not required as they believe the standard consultation clause should apply to any contracting out proposal. The unions countered these arguments by highlighting the unique nature and impact that contracting out has on internal positions and work.

It is unlikely that a decision will be handed down by the Full Bench today, however once this occurs and once we have a full understanding of the decision we will advise all members of the outcome. In the meantime, Justin Page has taken over from Neville Betts in the role of coordinating the ETU at Essential Energy and Justin’s can be contacted on justinp@etunsw.asn.au or 0414 877 301.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler
Secretary.

Essential Energy fined $300,000 over death of worker: Union calls for senior managers to be held accountable

Paul Lister - Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Electrical Trades Union is demanding senior management at publicly-owned electricity network company Essential Energy be held personally accountable for work practices they oversaw that resulted in the preventable death of 47-year-old father Trevor Tooze in 2013.

The call comes as the company was fined $300,000 over the incident, with the court finding the company placed a desire to maintain electricity supplies ahead of safety when workers were told to operate in close proximity to a live 11,000 volt cable, resulting in the preventable death.

An experienced electrical worker, Mr Tooze was one of six workers replacing several kilometres of powerlines on Monday 2 September 2013 along Seal Rocks Road, near Bulahdelah on the NSW mid-North Coast.

At approximately 10.25am, while receiving a copper cable that was being lowered to the ground, Mr Tooze was electrocuted when the cable came into contact with the operational high voltage line.

His colleagues performed CPR, but due to the remoteness of the worksite it took more than half an hour for help to arrive. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

“Trevor’s family, his workmates, and the community deserve to know which senior executive was responsible for prioritising the electricity supply over workers lives on that tragic day,” ETU deputy secretary Dave McKinley said.

“While the $300,000 fine is a welcome recognition that Essential Energy did the wrong thing, it is consumers who will end up paying it, so it provides little deterrent for unsafe practices.

“We believe the senior executives who were responsible for this policy, who knowingly placed workers in danger for the sake of maintaining electricity services, must be held personally responsible.

“Heads should roll, including Deputy Chief Executive Officer Gary Humphreys who held overall responsibility at the time, to send a message that the community has zero tolerance for the lives of working people being put at risk for the sake of convenience or profits.”

Mr McKinley said Mr Tooze’s death had resulted in changes at the company, including the rollout of almost 200 portable defibrillators following a 12-month union campaign.

“A portable defibrillator would have allowed Trevor to receive treatment within minutes, which would have increased his chances of survival,” he said.

“The ETU campaigned for this change in the hope that it could prevent similar tragedies in future, and there are now defibrillators taken on the road by crews across rural and regional NSW as they carry out maintenance and repair work on the electricity poles and wires.”

Click here to read the SafeWork NSW media release. 

Click here to read a copy of the Essential Energy incident report.


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