Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

ETU Calls on Barilaro to Intervene.

Paul Lister - Thursday, November 24, 2016

The ETU has today written to the new leader of the NSW National Party, John Barilaro, calling on him to intervene and stop or at least minimise proposed job losses at Essential Energy. As the sole shareholder, the NSW Government has the ability to intervene and stop the job cuts if they choose.

A copy of the letter from the ETU to the Deputy Premier is available here for your information, we will continue to put political pressure on the NSW Government and in particular the NSW National Party.

Click here to access a copy of the full bench workplace determination – we encourage all employees to read this document in full taking particular attention of what your management argued for and in particular the company’s disclosure at [60] on page 36 in which Essential Energy told the Fair Work Commission that they intend to reduce their workforce from the current 3,200 positions to 1,600 positions through the use of outsourcing.

This is the company’s true plan, the one that management did not want you to see and the plan that their lawyers fought so hard to keep secret. You cannot trust management, they are not your friend however the ETU will fight for your interest regardless of the outcome, we will continue to hold management to account and we will use all available measures to secure the best outcome for members.

Tomorrow we have a phone hook up to go through the decision and what it means, this will be followed by depot visits from organisers over the coming weeks and we will also make contact with management following the handing down of the decision.

If members have any questions please contact your workplace delegate or ETU Organiser and keep an eye out for each other, if you have any concerns please contact the union for assistance.

In Unity,
Steve Butler

Fair Work Commission hand down Essential Energy decision.

Paul Lister - Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Prior to the Workplace Determination matter Essential Energy employees were facing the prospect of an Agreement Cancellation case, which if Essential Energy were successful in, may have resulted in all Essential Energy employees reverting to the modern award with the loss of allowances and significant reduction in pay and conditions including unlimited forced redundancy.

ETU members were faced with fighting the agreement cancellation matter and rick losing or forcing the issue to arbitration and letting the Fair Work Commission determine the outcome of the Essential Energy Workplace Agreement.

In May ETU members took decisive action which forced the deadlock to arbitration covering four items, those being:

  • Consultation term,
  • Dispute Settlement Procedure,
  • Redundancy provisions, and;
  • Outsourcing provisions.

The Fair Work Commission has today handed down their Workplace Determination covering these items which is attached for members to read and consider. The following is a summary explanation provided for ETU members at Essential Energy.

Consultation.

The Fair Work Commission has determined that the “model consultation clause” as contained in the Fair Work Act should apply under a new workplace agreement. The “model clause” requires consultation:

“Once a definite decision to introduce a major change to production, program, organization, structure or technology in relation to its enterprise agreement that is likely to have a significant effect on the employees.”

Or

“Proposes to introduce a change to the regular roster or ordinary hours of work of employees.”

Essentially this clause requires Essential Energy to advise relevant employees about major change once a decision has been made and that the company is required to “give prompt and genuine consideration to matters raised about the change by relevant employees”.

In the event of any workplace change it will now be up to members to notify Essential Energy that they want the union involved in consultation as Essential Energy will no longer be required to notify the union but only affected employees.

Dispute Settlement Procedure.

The Dispute Settlement procedure will continue to cover all disputes arising out of the employer-employee relationship – this essentially means that the DSP will apply to all workplace disputes moving forward as has done in the past.

The Dispute Settlement Procedure included in the Workplace Determination retains a limited status-quo provision, however unions must now apply to the Fair Work Commission for Status Quo to apply which will be time limited and applied on a case by case basis.

The DSP Clause remains largely unchanged from the existing agreement with the exception of how Status Quo will apply.

Redundancy Provisions.

The ETU forcefully put our views in relation to the retention of no forced redundancy, despite this the Fair Work Commission in the Workplace Determination has included provisions for involuntary (forced) redundancy.

The provision determined by the Fair Work Commission, despite protests from your union, allows Essential Energy to make up to 600 roles forcibly redundant over the course of the agreement which will expire on 30 June 2018, after which point there is no cap.

Importantly, and against the unions’ submissions, the Fair Work Commission has ruled that any Voluntary Redundancy and Mix & Match WILL NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THIS CAP, additionally current re-deployees will also not form part of this cap however current re-deployees will be entitled to participate in the “early retirement” option as outlined below, something that Essential Energy management argued strongly against.

The redundancy provision included in the Workplace Determination will provide employees holding positions that are determined redundant with the option to accept and an “early retirement” payment of 20 weeks’ pay plus their redundancy payment calculated using the all-purpose rate (Essential Energy wanted base pay to form this calculation) and years of service capped at 52 weeks (ie maximum of 72 weeks’ pay).

The Workplace Determination indicates that the 600 cap relates to “roles” and not “people”. The focus will be on how Essential Energy attempt to interpret the definition of roles.

The case fought by the ETU has exposed plans of Essential Energy management to reduce their current workforce from 3,200 to 1,600 by 2019. Essential Energy lawyers, on behalf of management, attempted to keep this plan secret by application to Fair Work which was rejected.

The ETU can only assume that management and the NSW Liberal/National Government wanted to keep this secret so no one would question how they intend to deliver a safe and reliable regional electricity network into the future. This is another example of how management and the NSW Government have deceived employees.

Outsourcing Provision.

Essential Energy have indicated that they intend to “re-shape” their workforce through the use of outsourcing in order to cut current staff numbers from 3,200 to 1,600 by 2019. Under the provision handed down by the Fair Work Commission, Essential Energy will be permitted to engage contractors where peak workloads cannot be met by the Essential Energy workforce or where specific expertise is not available in the Essential Energy workforce.

If contractors are to be considered, Essential Energy must “test the market” and provide assistance to employees to prepare an Expression of Interest or tender.  The Contracting out clause will be subject to the Dispute Settlement Procedure and the ETU will continue to fight to ensure work is kept in-house.

The outsourcing provision remains largely unchanged but is a long way from what the company wanted which was open slather contracting out of existing jobs.

----------------------------------------

There is no doubt that the outcome of the Fair Work Commissions workplace determination will have long lasting impacts for dedicated and loyal Essential Energy workers and the ETU will continue to represent members and fight for the best possible outcomes for each individual member.

The workplace determination has bought to a head the long running dispute between Essential Energy, their employees and their unions. The ETU is today calling on the NSW National Party to intervene and stop any job losses – a test for the new National Party Leader, John Barilaro.

The ETU will be holding a telephone townhall with delegates on Friday, and Organisers will be visiting depots and making themselves available to members to discuss the outcome and the process moving forward.

Both the company and unions must now accept the Fair Work Commission outcome and make application for a new agreement within three days after which the Workplace Determination will come into force by way of a new workplace agreement including the terms set out in the determination. This process should be completed in the coming weeks.

Throughout this dispute and over the past two years ETU members have been unbelievable in their solidarity, mateship and general support of each other and while we face difficult times ahead I ask all members to look out for each other and to contact the union with any concerns you have.

We will continue to stand up for you and take the fight forward into the future both in the workplace and politically in order to make the best of this outcome.

A full copy of the Decision will be available once a corrected version is issued by the Fair Work Commission.

In Unity,
Steve Butler

Further Industrial Action Notified

Paul Lister - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On Monday I had a phone hook up with your negotiating committee where the issue of stepping up industrial action was discussed. It was resolved unanimously that for operational and flexibility purposes the Union give notice of our intention to take protected industrial action every day for the whole month of June.

While this may sound daunting, this notice does not mean that ETU members will strike every day for the month of June but it does give you and your Union a tactical advantage and flexibility to call on strike action at short notice and in a strategic approach to have maximum impact on the company.

This approach was also supported by ETU delegates from across Essential Energy - the ETU will provide further information on what action, if any, and when it is to occur over the coming weeks. We may take no action, we may take little action or we may take more action depending on the circumstances. This will be a decision of members through your delegates.

We continue to explore ways in which we can bring this dispute to an end and we believe the strategic and flexible approach outlined above will exert maximum pressure on the company and force a resolution.

It is possible that this action may threaten the ongoing reliable supply of electricity to regional NSW including to retail customers, businesses and other infrastructure, however that is a matter for the NSW Premier and your incompetent management to figure out.

As I stated yesterday, the ETU's positions has changed - we will no longer provide coverage or response in times of protected industrial action.

If we are to win this as a collective then we must stand strong, be united and support these actions. By not supporting this and future strike action you weaken the union’s bargaining position and sell out your workmates. If we do not win this fight then no-one’s job is guaranteed in the future, it's that simple.

IF YOU ARE NOT AN ETU MEMBER AND WISH TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS ACTION, JOIN THE ETU TODAY.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE ETU

Friends, it's time to be strong. If you need to discuss any matter please contact your workplace delegate or your ETU organiser who will assist you in what every capacity possible.

If we don't fight, we lose.

In Unity,
Steve Butler
Secretary

80-Hour Strike Update

Paul Lister - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Next week ETU members across Essential Energy will stop work for a continuous period of 80 hours commencing at 10pm on Monday 23 May. This is still the case and all ETU members including after hours on-call and control rooms should not turn up to work during the strike period or respond to management requests regardless of the circumstances.

Yesterday I publicly called for Gary Humphries resignation. I did this because your Acting CEO continues to lead the attacks against you and your family and he clearly does not understand his legal responsibility and that of Essential Energy.

The strike action being undertaken next week is court approved protected industrial action. You and your union are protected from any adverse action during this court approved action. By law Essential Energy must guarantee the safe and reliable supply of electricity to customers.

Gary Humphries appears not to understand his most basic responsibility and for this reason he should resign immediately.

Yesterday management sent out a Broadcast to all employees saying that the ETU gave a commitment on the 4th of May that we would provide emergency coverage during industrial action. This afternoon I have written to Gary Humphries to make it clear in no uncertain terms that the ETU’s position has changed.

THE ETU WILL NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE THROUGHOUT THE STRIKE PERIOD – DURING NORMAL WORK HOURS OR AFTER HOURS. THE ETU WILL NOT PROVIDE ON-CALL RESPONSE AND WE WILL NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR CONTROL ROOMS.

We cannot guarantee that the public will not suffer extended blackouts. We cannot guarantee that electricity retailers will have electricity to sell, we cannot guarantee businesses across regional NSW will continue to have power. The resolution of this dispute is in the hands of Essential Energy management.

Despite managements public statements, the only action taken by Essential Energy has been to try and terminate your agreement that would result in the loss of 800 jobs and reduction to pay and conditions. Essential Energy is refusing to allow the dispute to be resolved by Fair Work through consent arbitration.    

Friends, next week will be difficult but this situation has now degraded from a position where a resolution may have been possible, after the ETU and other unions made multiple offers and concessions, to one where our members across the state are now calling for decisive action and this is exactly what next week will deliver.

I cannot express to you how important it is that ETU members stick together and all participate in this action.

IF YOU ARE NOT AN ETU MEMBER AND WISH TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS ACTION, JOIN THE ETU TODAY.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE ETU

As always, your workplace delegate and organizers are available to respond to questions.

In Unity
Steve Butler
Secretary

ETU Delegates Endorse 80 Hour Stoppage, Notice Given to Company.

Paul Lister - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Last Tuesday the Essential Energy ETU negotiating team had a conference call. During this call the ongoing dispute around negotiations was discussed and your negotiating team was provided with an update from our legal team, in particular lawyers from Slater and Gordon.

Based on the current state of negotiations your negotiating team endorsed plans for an extended work stoppage using twenty 4 hour stoppages to provide for a continuous 80 hour strike period. This decision was then taken to ETU delegates from across the state on a telephone town hall after which your workplace delegates responded by text message further endorsing and indicating high levels of support for the proposed 80 hour protected action.

ETU members across the company expressed a strong desire that the next round of action should include all ETU members from across the whole company including control rooms and those rostered as on-call.

Last night the ETU, on behalf of members, notified Essential Energy of our intention to stop work for a continuous period of 80 hours commencing at 10pm on Monday 23 May concluding at 6am Friday 27 May covering all CEPU (ETU) members in all Essential Energy locations.

We understand that this a significant escalation in action however based on feedback from members this is exactly what is needed – a decisive move that will force Essential Energy’s hand. This action was only endorsed after extensive discussion and was not arrived at lightly.

The ETU has provided management with almost two weeks’ notice and while they will complain about the lack of coverage, if this management team was any good they would be able to address their own concerns within this timeframe.

This is not likely to be the end of this matter. After providing notice last night, the 80-hour strike issue will develop over coming days and we will keep you informed of any developments.

As I stated in my last notice – the secure jobs, pay and conditions that you enjoy today were not simply given to you by generous bosses. ETU members that have gone before you had to endure the same struggles to secure what you enjoy today. It is now our responsibility to protect this for both current and future workers.

We will prevail in this dispute but only if ETU members at Essential Energy across the state make the conscious decision to stick together. If we don’t stick together, you will hand Humphries and Mike Baird the victory they are so desperate to secure while coming off second best.

Times are tough, if you have any questions please talk to your workplace delegate or your ETU organiser.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler
Secretary.

Apprentice numbers down as Liberals & Nationals gut TAFE

Paul Lister - Friday, March 04, 2016

The ETU is seriously concerned at the latest figures which show the number of people undertaking an apprenticeship - including in the electrical trades - has plummeted.

Shadow Minister for Skill's David Harris pointed out today that the number of apprenticeships being undertaking in September last year was 82,600 down from 146,200 in 2010.

This drop of almost 50% in five years is alarming. At the same time the ETU has witnessed a reduction in the quality of trade outcomes following the implementation of "Smart & Skilled" which has financially gutted the TAFE system and reduced face to face training time.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler said that this is a worrying trend which is not reversed will have severe consequences for all trades right across NSW.

"We have had feedback from many employers saying that the quality of apprentice training has dropped significantly." Steve said.

"On the job employers are seeing a drop off in the skills of apprentices particularly around competency and safety."

"The ETU has commissioned research into trade outcomes to help identify the problem and how it may be addressed."

"We have already started talking to MPs about changes and we will have more to say on this front later this month." said Steve.

Essential Energy EA update - Draft Agreement 15 Feb

Paul Lister - Monday, February 15, 2016

Dear Colleagues

As you are aware the Essential Energy combined Union delegates from the ETU, USU and PA met on Thursday the 11th February to consider the DRAFT proposal from Essential Energy management.

All delegates are aware of the balance required in the negotiations for a new agreement and the Unions and nominated representatives have made it clear to management that there is a preparedness to negotiate on the difficult matters pressed upon us through the present set of circumstances, but not at any cost.

The ETU have been attempting to negotiate an improvement in the voluntary redundancy package including that this improved package be offered across the organisation to all workers and not targeted to specific employees as is currently happening. Essential Energy originally talked about enhancing the Voluntary Redundancy package by 26 weeks but have since reduced this to 13 a week carrot that is not available to all employees.

Essential Energy’s reduced offer of 13 weeks comes with conditions meaning that many people who would likely accept a VR are excluded while targeting other employees who may wish to say. On top of this the Unions have also suggested a much greater emphasis on mix and match.

The simple entitlement of respect and dignity for workers is not being considered through the cavalier attitude of management who seem hell bent on dismissing the basic tenant of workers everywhere, that is, to be considered in a manner that treats workers as people, not numbers or resources or bits of equipment that can be discarded and put on the rubbish heap, but people with families and communities that depend on them.

The combined Union delegates went through the DRAFT document provided by EE management and concerns were raised over the following matters (the list represents the main items of concern and is not comprehensive);

  • 800 forced redundancies that would take place before 2018 but would be sooner than that.
  • Unlimited forced redundancies at the date the agreement nominally expired, July 2018.
  • The selective approach to redundancy and the selective offering of payments.
  • The change in policy on present occupant positions.
  • The changes to the outsourcing and contracting out of work.
  • The removal of the status quo from the dispute resolution procedure.
  • A two-year wage freeze and an offer of 2.5% or approximately 0.8% per annum over the three years of the DRAFT agreement.
  • Reduction in agreement conditions when called in to work.

The combined Union delegates discussed the many elements of the agreement at length and ultimately resolved the following;

“The combined Union delegates from the ETU, USU and Professionals Australia confirm that the draft, Essential Energy proposal for an agreement is unacceptable and damaging to Union members in its current form and wish to continue negotiations to reach a more balanced agreement.”

The combined Unions will write to Gary Humphreys to continue formal discussion and negotiations with Essential Energy in relation to managements claim for forced redundancy terms to be included in the agreement and that the combined Unions will continue to genuinely consider proposals for forced redundancy.

This correspondence will have the basis of continued negotiation and the desire to reach agreement at its core.

Essential Energy management have told employees that they want to resolve the Enterprise Agreement through negotiation and the combined Unions have made it very clear to management that workers and their Unions want the same thing.

Unfortunately, management have also said that if they can’t get the agreement they want they will use all avenues available to them to reach their goals. Make no mistake, this is a very deliberate threat that is an attempt to get workers to agree to something that may not be in their best interest.

The combined Unions believe that management will put the DRAFT agreement that has been circulated to workers out for a vote. The agreement is not endorsed by the Unions or your employee negotiating representatives.

As a result of management’s approach the combined Unions have been authorised by delegates to make an application to Fair Work for a protected action ballot. The delegates and unions want a negotiated outcome but threats and intimidation from management are unacceptable. 

The ETU will continue to communicate with members as this matter progresses and once again members are reminded to look out for each other and to let Union officers know if there are any concerns about the welfare of fellow workers.

In Solidarity
Steve Butler & Neville Betts

ETU has encouraging conciliation hearing re Essential Energy’s “Blended Delivery” proposal.

Paul Lister - Friday, February 12, 2016

Essential Energy is attempting to introduce a so called “blended delivery” work model on the NSW north coast between Buladelah to Tweed Heads.

The company first notified the ETU around the middle of last year of their intention to introduce “blended delivery” which is nothing more than management speak for contracting out and since this time the ETU has been fighting to ensure internal resources are used as a priority.

Almost twelve months has passed with more than a dozen phone hook ups and meetings which culminated in the ETU lodging a dispute at the end of January 2016 triggering the status quo provisions in the current agreement.

The ETU appeared before Senior Deputy President Hamberger in the Fair Work Commission last week to argue that Essential Energy have created a number of “un-funded” positions across all areas which has resulted in a internal redeployees.

Under Essential Energy’s redeployee policy, it states that Essential must provide “meaningful work” to redeployees, a point accepted by SDP Hamberger.

SDP Hamberger made comment during the conciliation hearing that it is incumbent on Essential Energy to explore and respond to the ETU about the use of redeployees in the following roles:

  • Preliminary work’s incl low voltage paralleling
  • Earthing
  • Compliance
  • Switching and Access Permits
  • Potential secondment to sub-contractors; and
  • Potential use of overtime for permanent employees rather than use of contractors

SDP Hamberger made clear that Essential Energy must provide meaningful work to redeployees even if this means exploring the possibility of a commercial contract for the use of Essential Energy redeployees on contractor jobs.

Despite SDP Hamberger telling Essential Energy that they must consider and respond to the ETU’s concerns the union has not yet heard from the company. We will continue to stand up for members on this and other issues.

Ausgrid EBA update - 5 February 2016

Paul Lister - Friday, February 05, 2016

EBA Negotiations

Your negotiating committee met with Ausgrid management yesterday at the EBA negotiating committee. This meeting occurred against a backdrop of recent EBA discussions whereby Ausgrid’s volume of claims were of such magnitude and scale that the resulting cut to pay and conditions were unlikely to ever result in a negotiated outcome in the near future. Notwithstanding this the ETU have always been and are always prepared to listen and bargain in good faith.

The New Year appears to have provided some rays of light with Ausgrid now seemingly prepared to talk sensibly about how we might come to agreement on a few key issues including the Voluntary Redundancy Policy, Consultation, Contracting out and Dispute Resolution clauses.

The discussions are occurring with the knowledge of the impending sale transaction and the pros and cons of negotiating an Agreement prior to new owners taking over. Both parties have agreed that it would be preferable for us to achieve a negotiated outcome prior to this. However it is important that members understand that in the event that we do not have an agreement negotiated by that time the current Agreement stands and along with it all the provisions and protections it contains.

At the end of the day we will not negotiate an agreement which undermines the three fundamental principles which we have been charged with securing;

  • Job security
  • No trade off in conditions
  • A reasonable wage outcome

Judgement about the degree to which we are prepared to compromise to get a negotiated outcome prior to a sale will be guided by these principles.

AER Consultative Committee

We continue to meet with management on a weekly basis and review the ongoing numbers, which as of yesterday are as follows;

  • Redeployee Pool plus Remaining from Phase 1 - 130 positions
  • Phase 2 (2016) - 420 surplus positions
  • Phase 3 (2017) - 180 surplus positions

Ausgrid have begun to consult with us on the measures that they see are necessary to justify the deeming of the phase 2; 420 positions as surplus and we are debating with them the timeframe for consultation over this. Ausgrid are proposing an 8 week timetable which we cannot agree to until we have seen some of the detail behind what they are proposing to achieve this reduced number. Ausgrid have stated that they intend to use the same process of mix and match for phase 2 as was used in phase 1.

There is little doubt that the mix and match process instituted in phase 1 after significant industrial and legal pressure from the combines unions, has had an effect on the organization utilizing the process to at least make a decent attempt at maximizing the opportunity for those that want to stay and allowing those that want to leave to leave. Obviously we have been and continue to push for the process to be as flexible as possible to maximize job security for people. Whilst the outcome is not as good as we would have liked i.e. zero in the redeployment pool, it is a big improvement on the “pick and choose” method that Ausgrid were proposing 6 months ago.

We will continue to work with the organization to ensure that our member’s interests are best served by the process which means;

1. Maximising the use of mix and match and therefore ensuring that job security is maximised and
2. Ensuring that organisation complies with its legislative obligations and only exits staff down to the legislated minimum number.

Finally, we note that the CEO intends to do a road show, I am sure you will let him know what you feel regarding the organization’s attitudes to your apparently “uncompetitive” Agreement.

In Unity,

Mark Buttigieg & Justin Page

Essential Energy Update - 28 January

Paul Lister - Thursday, January 28, 2016

AS advised in the update of 25 January, the Unions met with Essential Energy management today to further discuss the Essential Energy Enterprise Agreement.

EE management, led by Gary Humpheries, advised they were intent on including the current and next AER determinations into the context of this negotiation and that meant they were after large numbers of redundancies and further cost savings from the agreement.

Management advised that they intended to undertake the following course of action;

  • Provide MANAGEMENTS preferred DRAFT agreement to all employees by next week (week starting 1st February) this is management’s document and is no way agreed to or endorsed by the ETU.
  • Management say the document is provided for consultation and feedback purposes only and is not being provided for the purposes of a ballot. (Based on our understanding of management’s proposed DRAFT document and subject to a Delegate meeting, if necessary the ETU will run a no vote on this document should the company commence a ballot).
  • Management have agreed to a full delegates meeting for the purposes of feedback, on a date to be fixed.
  • Management have advised that negotiations will continue after the release of the DRAFT document.
  • Management have advised that the DRAFT document will have a revised redundancy provision that includes;
    • Forced redundancy for up to 800 employees for the term of this agreement and a provision for ongoing forced redundancy without limitation allegedly from the expiry of the agreement (July 2018).
    • An increase of 13 weeks in redundancy payment or a retention period of 26 weeks. If redundancy were not to be accepted or the offer of a retention period is taken up then the present provisions of 2 weeks per year of service capped at 52 weeks would apply (ie you would forgo the additional 13 week payment).
    • Removal of the present consultation provisions to be replaced with the Modern Award model consultation clause which removes the right to status quo while a dispute is being progressed.
    • Reduce the recall to work overtime provision from a minimum of 4 hours to a minimum of 2 hours at the penalty rate.
    • Management are looking at all options available under the FAIR Work Act including application to cancel the agreement.

These are major changes and they have not been agreed by the ETU or by the other Unions.

The ETU has arranged for a telephone town hall briefing for delegates tomorrow at 1200 hours where we will discuss all options available to members.

In solidarity
Steve Butler & Neville Betts


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