Electricity, Water and Utilities
Electricity, Water and Utilities
ETU members at Transgrid have maintained and improved conditions in the first enterprise agreement negotiated since the company was privatised two years ago.
A four-year EBA will deliver total pay rises of 8 per cent, with two instalments of 2 per cent set to land at Christmas and then New Year.
The agreement includes better redundancy pay, superior remote working arrangements and a pacesetting 10 days domestic violence leave.
Photo: Col Waring
Veteran ETU negotiator Michael McManus said the outcome meets the priorities set by members at depot meetings.
‘We’re reasonably happy with it. The wage increases are not big but for the blokes the primary aim was to secure our conditions and avoid trade-offs,’ said Michael, a site manager in Yass.
‘It’s not perfect but the payments for forced or voluntary redundancy are now significantly higher than the National Employments Standards.
‘We’re very happy with the domestic violence leave – 10 days helps our people and makes Transgrid a national leader,’ said Michael.
Col Waring, a substation advisor and ETU negotiator, said ‘we’ve accepted an offer that does the minimum’.
‘It’s a reasonable outcome in a tough environment for the electricity sector. We’re 100 per cent privatised and our workforce is under pressure,’ said Col, who works at Eastern Creek.
‘We had to protect jobs and full-time employment, particularly in rural areas. We need stability and security. This EBA delivers that along with improved conditions and a reasonable pay rise for the future.’
Transgrid workers are now entitled to up to 62 weeks redundancy pay, far above the 12 weeks contained in the National Employment Standards.
The EBA provides that employees working away from home are uniformly entitled to claim a day ‘sustenance rate’ instead of being paid ‘actuals’ (receipted expenses).
A new flexible arrangement for remote work means employees working away for long periods will enjoy more leave when they get home.
ETU Secretary Dave McKinley, who led negotiations, said the maintenance of conditions met ‘our members’ biggest concern’.
‘Our team protected all key conditions while enhancing others with an eye to the future.
‘Transgrid is likely to take on more contestable work including huge projects such as interconnectors in South Australia and Queensland. This will require extended periods of remote work which will see our members benefit under clauses in this EBA,’ said Dave.
Transgrid operates almost 13,000 kilometres of high voltage transmission network in NSW and the ACT.
The company was sold by the NSW Government in December 2015 to a consortium composed of Australian, Canadian and Middle Eastern investors.
The four-year EBA, expiring in December 2020, covers around 900 employees including up to 400 ETU members.
Members will be mailed ballot papers next week for a vote to authorise protected industrial action – it is essential that all ETU members complete the ballot and vote ‘YES’ to every proposed action.
Only a strong majority ‘YES’ vote to every action will enable us to campaign effectively for an acceptable agreement, in the event that matters cannot be resolved in negotiations.
A clear, united “YES’ vote will send a powerful message to Ausgrid management that we are serious about achieving a fair outcome and will back our words with action, if required.
Your ETU negotiators will of course continue to do everything possible to achieve an acceptable result via negotiation. As I write this today, we have reached in-principle agreement on six items. However, two major issues remain outstanding.
Six items agreed in principle, but two key matters unresolved
Negotiations have continued this week with in principle agreement on the following major items:
Dispute Settlement Procedure Clause.
Redeployee incentive. On certification of the Agreement, for all redeployees a one off $75,000 incentive payment with a three-week acceptance period after which time the offer is withdrawn.
As at 1 July 2020 a cap of 250 on the number of redeployees that can be made forcibly redundant at the end of the job guarantee period. In other words, Ausgrid can make forcibly redundant up to 250 remaining redeployees as at 1 July 2020.
From 1 July 2020 an ongoing “global” annual cap of 250 to apply to both voluntary and forced redundancies.
An Annual Apprentice intake.
Remaining Major outstanding items
Career Capability and Remuneration (CCR) scheme. We are in the process of making sure that any discrepancy between the current skills structure pay rates and the proposed CCR pay rates does not result in any structural long term pay disadvantages as people progress through their career. The nature of how that progression through a career is determined, is also being negotiated.
Pay Rise: Ausgrid’s position remains; 2.5% year 1 plus a one off $1,000 sign on bonus, 2.5% in year 2 and 2% in year 3 (contingent on agreeing to the CCR). The ETU’s position remains 3% per annum, this is not unreasonable given the three to four year wage freeze.
The Protected Action Ballot Timetable
The Fair Work Commission has approved the conducting of a ballot of members for the right to take protected industrial action. We expect ballot papers to begin arriving at members addresses from Monday 11 December.
It is critical that on receiving the ballot papers that all members vote and return the ballots as soon as they receive the ballot papers.
Please ensure that you register a yes vote to all the questions so that the ballot result is effective. Members can either post back the ballot or give them back to their local workplace delegate who will post them.
While we continue to negotiate with Ausgrid on the outstanding matters outlined above, it is important for members to understand that these matters are part of a total package. If we are unable to resolve the outstanding issues, then we will proceed to a concerted industrial and political campaign to achieve an outcome which is acceptable to members.
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The combined unions continue to edge closer to an agreement with discussions continuing around annual pay increases in the new agreement and the proposed career progression structure, excluding these two items the ETU believes we are moving closer to an agreement providing these items can be resolved.
The application for protected industrial action has been lodged with the Fair Work Commission and we await a response and order permitting this action - this course of action will be pursued if necessary and we will keep members updated. Below is a video update from ETU Organiser Mark Buttigieg.
In two days of extensive meetings this week between union officials, the broader negotiating committee and Ausgrid management, in principle agreement has been reached in three out of the six areas of major contention;
Consultation Clause; Is almost to the point where the draft wording is agreed on.
Dispute Settlement Procedure Clause; Is almost to the point where the draft wording is agreed on.
Contracting Out Clause; Drafting of this clause is yet to be completed but the principles of that clause are agreed on.
While some progress has been made in areas 4. and 5. below, there is still a significant amount of work to do to bring the two positions closer together;
A post 1 July 2020 “global” redundancy cap which would apply to both voluntary and forced redundancies and a credible mechanism to prevent Ausgrid “stockpiling” redeployees prior to 1 July 2020.
Career Capability and Remuneration (CCR) scheme. There are issues to be resolved pertaining to future career progression pay rates, consultation provisions for any significant reduction in numbers of each band required within each work group and the consultative mechanism for determining how people would be judged to have “met” or “exceeded” expectations.
Pay Rise; Ausgrid’s position remains; 2.5% year 1 with 2% in years 2 and 2% in year 3 (contingent on agreeing on CCR). The ETU’s position remains 3% per annum.
In the meantime, an application was today lodged with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for the right to ballot our members for protected industrial action. Whilst we are hopeful more progress will be made next week in schedule negotiations, members should be under no illusion about our resolve to push ahead with a full scale industrial and political campaign should we not be able to reach agreement on the above issues.
Join us 11.30am Thursday 16 November - Belmore Park, Sydney (near Central Station).
On Tuesday this week the combined union officials attended another meeting with Ausgrid management to work on progressing the agreement. The results of that meeting and the two prior ones were reported to the negotiating committee the next day. The following points represent areas where we believe significant progress has been made.
A Forced Redundancy provision applying from after 1 July 2020 (the end of the job protection legislation) with a Year 1 “global” cap (would apply to both voluntary and forced redundancies) of 300. Exercising of a redundancy program would be conditional on implementing a thorough Voluntary Redundancy EOI program first. If for example 150 people chose to exit the business voluntarily, Ausgrid would only be able to make forcibly redundant 150 in year 1.
A contracting out clause which retains the current clause provisions but with the addition of an oversight committee to have input into Ausgrid’s preferred contractor panel selection.
A Dispute Settlement Procedure which retains the current status quo provisions. There is still debate over how and when status quo would apply.
A Consultation clause which has a criterion of triggering rigorous consultation when the proposed change can be shown to have a significant effect on employees.
A Career, Capability and Remuneration (CCR) scheme which objectively recognizes skills and performance. There is still significant work to do in this area. The CCR negotiating subcommittee will reconvene next week to continue work on it in a bid to improve the outcomes for employees.
A Three-year agreement. i.e. nominal expiry 3 years after the Agreement is certified by FWC.
Major outstanding issues include:
In the pre-job guarantee period (i.e. pre-1 July 2020) Ausgrid’s proposition is that there would be no limit to how many people Ausgrid can make redeployed. This is unacceptable because it would allow Ausgrid to stock-pile redeployees in anticipation of the 1 July 2020 date then exit these redeployees that would not count to the 300-year 1 cap.
Ausgrid’s desire to be able to direct redeployees in to what we say is non-meaningful work.
The cap that is to apply in years 2 and 3 after 1 July 2020.
Pay Rise – Ausgrid’s position is 2.5%, 2 %, 2% with no back pay. Combined unions position is 3%, 3% 3% with some back pay.
Further negotiating meetings are scheduled for next week when we will have further updates.
0417 208 447 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Please see below a video update from ETU Organiser Mark Buttigieg. Should you have any questions please direct these to your workplace organiser or Mark.
In accordance with the last update, the combined union officials this week attended a two-day intensive negotiation with Ausgrid management in a bid to reach agreement on some basic concepts in relation to the following five major issues:
- A post 1 July 2020 Forced Redundancy provision with an annual cap.
- A tighter contracting out clause.
- A Dispute Settlement Procedure which retains the current status quo provisions.
- A Consultation clause which retains employee and union involvement in change.
- A Career, Capability and Remuneration (CCR) scheme which objectively recognizes skills and performance.
We are pleased to report that the two-day discussions proved worthwhile and productive with significant progress and varying degrees of in principle agreement on all five issues above. While agreement on the above remains at an in principle / conceptual stage, we are reasonably confident that we can translate these principles in to EBA clauses which satisfy both sides. Having said that there is a lot of work to do to achieve this, particularly in the CCR scheme.
In terms of a pay rise, whilst this was not the focus of discussions we made it clear to Ausgrid that their current offer of Year 1; 2.5% with subsequent annual 2% increases contingent on implementation of CCR, was inadequate given the 4-year wage freeze.
In the meantime, as instructed by the last delegates meeting on the 11th October - we are finalising our joint application to the FWC for the right to ballot our members to take protected action. It is important that members understand that we are proceeding with this in case negotiations once again break down. We must retain the ability to bring the matter to a head via protected industrial action if necessary. Whilst we are confident this will not be necessary we have been instructed by our members and their delegates to bring the matter to a head one way or another. It would be premature to say we have this agreement over the line.
We will be reporting back to the broader EBA negotiating committee on Wednesday 8th November with some reasonably firm proposals on the above issues. In the meantime, if you have any questions please feel free to contact your negotiating committee representative or respective organiser.
In Uniy - Mark Buttigieg
Last week we asked ETU Delegates to circulate the Essential Energy revised in-principle offer and seeking feedback from members. The overwhelming response has been ETU members support the concept of an early settlement, “rollover” of the Enterprise Agreement.
Essential Energy will issue employees with a notice of representational rights. This formally starts the bargaining process. The parties and representatives will meet to formalise a draft agreement to go to an electronic vote. This vote cannot take place within 21 days of the notice of representational rights being issued. A draft agreement and explanatory document needs to be circulated 7 days before any vote can be held.
The aim is to have a vote conducted early December.
Thank you to all the ETU Delegates for your continued efforts and enabling this to happen in such a short timeframe. Your efforts are much appreciated.
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On Wednesday the negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management to continue negotiations on the Ausgrid Agreement.
As promised last week, the combined unions again attempted to make progress by putting on the table a package of the four contentious clauses -- outside of the also contentious CCR proposal. These clauses have previously been identified as roadblocks to an Agreement.
A summary of our basic position on each clause was put as follows:
A post 1 July 2020 Forced Redundancy provision with an annual cap of 50 forced redundancies per financial year and an extra payment of $100,000 for all forced redundancies. The higher Forced Redundancy payout means that the cap is a genuine one and applies to forced redundancies not voluntary redundancies. Without a significant differential between a voluntary and forced package, the cap becomes meaningless.
A contracting out clause that gives members and their delegates oversight of contracting out and some ability to prevent contracting out to rogue operators and the lowest bidder.
A Dispute Settlement Procedure that retains the current status quo provisions but places strict timetables on disputes.
A consultation provision that places strict timetables on the length of consultation required by Ausgrid.
A 3% annual wage increase over four years.
A Career, Capability and Remuneration scheme that objectively recognises skills and performance.
This package represents real concessions to Ausgrid while continuing to deliver on our key outcomes of job security, no trade-offs and a decent wage rise. It is a position that we think is worth fighting for all the way.
We also made it clear to Ausgrid that -- while we accept that the current skills structure mechanism for career advancement is somewhat dysfunctional and needs to improve - Ausgrid’s proposed CCR alternative will result in a severely downgraded pay scale for all your career paths. We have put the view that a combination of skills-based progression and performance-based pay may be a way forward.
The union also put the view that -- to have a hope of reaching a negotiated outcome -- we need to reach agreement on some basic concepts in relation to the major issues above. The fact that Ausgrid has already tabled an EBA proposal when some of the fundamental concepts on the major issues have not been agreed to makes negotiation very difficult. Ausgrid noted this view and has agreed to a smaller working group of union officials and Ausgrid management to try and reach in-principle agreement on the major issues above. This smaller group would then report back to the larger EBA negotiating committee with a view to working up the corresponding clauses if agreement on the basic concepts can be achieved.
In the meantime, in accordance with the resolution of the delegates meeting held on 11 October, we are finalising our application to the Fair Work Commission for a ballot of members to take protected industrial action. In accordance with what members have been telling us they want, the EBA matter will be brought to a head over the coming months.
Finally, Ausgrid has rejected our request for paid depot meetings and has said that we must hold meetings outside normal work hours. This is a concerning change from the last time we toured depots when access was given during work hours. It tells you a lot about Ausgrid’s unwillingness to allow us to speak to our members. What are they afraid of? If they think their current proposal is so great, surely it will sell itself! As a result, I will be scheduling after hours meetings over the next few weeks. It is important that these are well attended so that members get a thorough update on the negotiations and the industrial campaign we are about to conduct.
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As reported yesterday, the ETU and Delegates called on Essential Energy to improve the in-principle offer which could see an early settlement of the Essential Energy Enterprise Agreement 2018. We sought improvements of a minimum cap on wages, bring second and third pay rise forward and revised wording on Individual Flexibility Arrangement clause. Essential Energy Board met today and the following improved offer has been put forward for the ETU and its member’s consideration.
A roll-over of current employment conditions through a new enterprise agreement with the one exception of a revised Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFA) clause;
A minimum cap of 2% which applies to each of the proposed CPI adjustments (on an annual or pro-rata basis);
A maximum cap of 2.5% which applies to each of the proposed CPI adjustments (on an annual or pro-rata basis);
Subject to the above points, CPI based wage increases as follows:
a CPI adjustment on 1 January 2018 based on the previous rolling 12 month CPI rate (CPI figures based on ABS Catalogue 6401.0)
a further CPI adjustment on 1 July 2018 based on the previous rolling 6 month CPI rate (minimum 1% up to maximum 1.25%);
a further CPI adjustment on 1 July 2019 based on the previous rolling 12 month CPI rate; and
a further CPI adjustment on 1 July 2020 based on the previous rolling 12 month CPI rate
Apply the above wage increases to other allowances (excluding ESRA);
Adopt a revised IFA clause which applies to “arrangements about start and/or finish times and / or vary the hours of work, within the spread of ordinary hours (6am – 6pm, between Monday to Friday) where requested by an employee and mutually agreed by Essential Energy”.
A nominal expiry date for the enterprise agreement of 30 June 2021.
Essential Energy revised offer seeks to genuinely progress discussions to see an early settlement. This revised offer front loads pay rises with the first pay rise being paid 1 Jan 2018 (6 month before expiry or current agreement) followed by an additional pay rise added in July 2018. The offer would see a total pay rise over 3.5 years of a minimum of 7% up to a maximum of 8.25%. The first pay rise on 1st January 2018 would be 2% as the rolling 12 months is at 1.8%.
The ETU is now seeking feedback from members on this in-principle “rollover” early settlement proposal. An in-principle agreement would then see a formal process start where representational rights would be issued by Essential, minimum 21 day negotiation period, new Enterprise Agreement drafted then put to a vote of all employees covered by the Enterprise Agreement.
If an in-principle agreement is not reached, the parties would enter into a traditional style negotiation (logs of claims) where the parties enter negotiations and seek to reach agreement on a new Enterprise Agreement to start at July 2018.
The ETU is asking Delegates to provide feedback from a depot level to myself by COB Tuesday 31st October 2017. Do the majority of members at your depot accept this “in-principle” offer? YES or NO.
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