Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Essential Energy enterprise agreement discussions commence

Peter Moss - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Forty ETU Delegates from Essential Energy met at our ETU Sydney Office yesterday to hear an Enterprise Agreement proposal from Essential CEO John Cleland. The intention was to ascertain the views of the ETU on an early settlement of the Essential Energy Enterprise Agreement 2018 negotiations.

Essential’s proposal:

  1. Employment Conditions- A roll-over of current employment conditions through a new enterprise agreement with the one exception of replacing the current Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFA) clause with the model flexibility term (As contained in the Fair Work Regulations 2009).
  2. Term of Agreement- A nominal expiry date of 30 June 2021.
  3. Pay Increase - A consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment to wages and allowances (excluding the Electrical Safety Rules Allowance). The CPI adjustment would be capped at the NSW Governments Wages Policy Task Force limit of 2.5% per annum.
  4. If parties reach agreement on an in-principle basis by mid-November, first wage increase would be 1 January 2018 (6 months earlier than the current expiry date of 30 June 2018), second wages increase 30 June 2019 and third wages increase 30 June 2020.

The Delegate’s had the opportunity to hear directly from John and to ask questions about Essentials proposal. After considering the proposal the Delegates called on Essential to improve the offer by putting a minimum cap of 2% in place and bring the second and third wage increase forward. The parties will work on wording for the IFA Clause.

John committed to consider the ETU’s counter proposal and respond in a timely manner. When questioned about Essentials the intent of reaching an early agreement, John’s response was the Business needs to reform through less bureaucracy, better systems and processes, improved technology, not by making changes to the Enterprise agreement.

On the question of redundancies John stated there will not be any massive wholesale redundancies. Essential are achieving reductions through voluntary redundancies and natural attrition. There will be further reductions through improved technology, but it is anticipated it will be through voluntary redundancies.

Justin Page
Assistant Secretary

EBA Meeting Wednesday 17 October Update

Paul Lister - Friday, October 20, 2017

On Wednesday the negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management to continue negotiations on the Ausgrid Agreement. Most of the meeting was occupied with Ausgrid providing dollar amounts attached to their proposed Career Capability and Remuneration scheme. We will shortly be providing detailed individual examples of why this scheme will result in pay and career paths being shut down.

It is important that members understand how this scheme works and why Ausgrid are so desperate to implement it – because it will save them millions of dollars on their wage bill going forward. Under the current skills progression scheme employees can progress up a career path so long as they provide evidence that they:

  • have the skill.
  • Ausgrid needs the skill and
  • use the skill.

Points are allocated to each skill as they are attained, and progression is based on provision of that evidence. Ausgrid do not like this scheme because they say it results in a level of progression which is too automatic – in other words it costs them too much to pay everyone what they’re worth.

Under the proposed Ausgrid scheme you will no longer proceed up your career path based on evidence but on managerial discretion. If you are a Line worker or Jointer or Subs fitter and you could have reasonably expected to progress up to a certain level in your structure by gaining skills, now you will be expected to use those skills and perform the higher-grade duties with no extra pay. If your manager decides that this “exceeds expectations” then they may grant you some extra pay points along the way – but they don’t have to. Then when you apply for a vacant role via the normal merit appointment process you will be appointed at the new level pay point of that role which in most circumstances is significantly less than the current value of those roles. For some classifications for example - the top of the structure - will drop by $20,000.00

Ausgrid are saying is that they are going to save a huge bucket of money over the life of the agreement by supressing your career paths and in return you’ll get a few crumbs – if your manager says you can have them!

At the same EBA meeting the combined unions also asked Ausgrid what their position on a cap on forced redundancies is and Ausgrid’s response was to say that they had not considered the cap. In other words, they came back to the meeting with nothing. Ask yourself why would Ausgrid not agree to a cap on how many people they can force out the door after July 2020? The only conclusion one can come to is that they want to sack everyone.  Currently they can’t do that because the current agreement contains no forced redundancies and we will not negotiate a new agreement that does not include a cap which is necessary to provide job security for you.

In a bid to progress negotiations - the combined unions suggested that we present a package of 4 contentious clauses which have previously been identified as road blocks by Ausgrid for them to respond;

  1. Forced Redundancy provision with an annual cap – (Ausgrid concession needed)
  2. Tightened up contracting out clause – (Ausgrid concession needed)
  3. Modified consultation clause (Union concession needed).
  4. Modified Dispute settlement clause (Union concession needed).

This package will be presented at the next EBA meeting on Wednesday 25th October. We are doing everything in our power to get a negotiated outcome but Ausgrid are making this much more difficult than it needs to be by demanding concessions and taking from workers while not giving anything back.

In the meantime, the unions will be applying to the Fair Work Commission early next week for the right to ballot our members to take industrial action – this is in line with last week’s delegates resolution.

I will shortly be touring depots and updating members on these matters. It is important that members remember that we only get decent outcomes when we are prepared to stand up for our fair share and fight. We will always talk to Ausgrid but there comes a time when we need action, now is that time.

Lets not forget that between 2014-16 Ausgrid executive’s received an increase averaging 5.33% while everyone else’s real wages went backwards. You deserve an unconditional annual wage increase and 3% is very reasonable.

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

Long Service Leave Accrual Dispute - We Won!

Paul Lister - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The ETU has secured a big win for Endeavour Energy members relating to Long Service Leave accruals and how they are paid after ETU Member Nick McWhirter (Snr) stood up with the support of the union against Endeavour Energy.

The dispute centered around Long Service Leave entitlements and accruals where employee's change their working hours - ie moving from a 36hr/wk to 40hr/wk in Nick's case.

This dispute commenced in May last year and was subject to a number of meetings with the Company, Fair Work Commission Conciliation conferences, Fair Work Commission Arbitration Hearing (where the decision went against Nick & the ETU) and a Fair Work Commission Appeal before a Full Bench of 3 Commissioners…where Nick and the ETU team were successful. This is a big win and a precedent setting decision as a result of ETU action.

The dispute centered around the members Long Service Leave entitlement being identified and recorded in “Hours” which didn’t equate to his entitlement of “Weeks” he had accrued in accordance with the EBA for his “Years of Service”.  This meant the member was being short changed his Long Service Leave entitlement worth approximately $9,500.00.

The Company has recorded the LSL entitlement the member had accrued while working a 36hr/wk arrangement, recorded in “Hours” not “Weeks”, and never adjusted the accrual for this period to accord with the remainder of his current “Years of Service” under a 40hr/wk arrangement.

In practical terms this meant that the member would be paid for taking his Long Service based on his current 40hr/wk wage (which is appropriate), however, because the LSL entitlement was being recorded in “Hours” not “Weeks”, and was never adjusted for his current 40hr/wk working arrangements, meant his recorded LSL would run out before his LSL entitlement accrual in “Weeks” was used (or paid out if he had left the Company) thus short changing his entitlement.

In short, in the Appeal we were able to demonstrate an error of the Commission’s Arbitration Decision regarding the interpretation of the Long Service Leave provisions in the EBA.

The Fair Work Commission Full Bench ordered (or words to the effect)

  1. The Appeal be upheld.
  2. The previous Arbitration decision be quashed, and
  3. The payment for the 36hr/wk period is to be paid at the current applicable weekly rate of pay (this being a 40 hour week).

Check your LSL Accrued Entitlement

To all members who have changed their ordinary hours of work/week you might want to check your LSL entitlement.  This can be done by dividing the LSL “Hours” recorded on your pay slip by your ordinary hours of work each week. This will identify your recorded LSL entitlement in “Weeks”. Then establish your actual LSL entitlement in “Weeks” from Clause 15 of the EBA and see if they are the same (if you have taken any Long Service Leave remember to deduct that amount).

If there is a difference, then you may wish to discuss this with your local Delegate, contact the ETU, or myself, to assist in resolving the anomaly.

In Unity
Brad Currey

Ausgrid EBA Reportback 16 October

Peter Moss - Monday, October 16, 2017

Endeavour Energy Team Ready to Bargain

Peter Moss - Monday, October 16, 2017
Negotiations for a new enterprise agreement covering 1,200 Endeavour Energy workers are off and running.

ETU members aim to:
* Boost job security
* Maintain existing employment conditions
* Achieve reasonable wage rises.

Our mighty Negotiating Team includes: Chris Tyrrell, Noel Mahon, Jareth Woosley, Nathan Gale, Brad Rossitor, Nick McWhirter, Ellen McNally, Dave Campbell, Tony McCarthy and Troy Fewings.

Go team!

ETU Delegates Vote Unanimously to Apply for Protected Industrial Action

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yesterday the combined unions delegates met to discuss Ausgrid’s proposed Agreement. See the next page for a detailed summary. We have been negotiating with Ausgrid under the new owners for nine months, on top of the two years prior to that with the previous owners. Instead of progressing in the negotiations we have gone backwards.

Ausgrid employees have conceded:

  • A 4-year wage freeze
  • A forced redundancy policy post-June 2020 with a cap
  • The loss of almost 2,000 jobs over five years. We are doing much more work with fewer people
  • Many conditions stripped including take-home vehicles, on-site gyms and taxis for shift workers.

Management has given nothing and wants:

  • To severely limit and weaken Consultation and Dispute Settlement clauses which were largely off the table six months ago
  • A token wage rise with no backpay -- conditional on acceptance of a severely limited career path
  • Reduction of your capacity to take Annual and Long Service leave at half pay
  • To switch you to a fortnightly pay cycle
  • To reduce the number of occasions you can take sick leave without a certificate from seven down to four
  • To direct when you can take your RDOs.

Delegates clearly told us at the meeting that our members believe enough is enough and things must be brought to a head. The time for talking is not yet over, but it is now time for action. The meeting unanimously voted to empower the negotiating committee to finalise a list of protected industrial actions which were discussed in detail at the meeting. Preparation of an application to the Fair Work Commission will now proceed that basis. This is the first step we need to take to gain authorisation from the FWC to conduct a ballot of members for protected (legal) industrial action. We will keep you informed on the progress of that application.

Ausgrid is desperate to put a positive spin on their proposed agreement that would, if implemented, result in the total destruction of job security, wholesale contracting out, loss of career progression, loss of any meaningful consultation or disputation rights -- all for a small wage rise. Let management know what you think of this offer – so the company understands we will not accept going backwards.

The table below details the major deficiencies with the offer identified by the delegates, and the impediments to a negotiated outcome.


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