Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

ETU NSW throws financial support behind sacked CUB workers

Paul Lister - Friday, August 19, 2016

The NSW Branch of the ETU/CEP has donated $10,000 towards the fighting fund to support the 55 sacked CUB workers in Melbourne who are members of the ETU and the AMWU.

On top of this NSW construction industry members chipped in a further $2,000 out of their own pocket while an AMWU/ETU fundraiser last Wednesday night saw another $5,000 raised bringing the total to almost $20,000.

ETU Secretary Steve Butler said that the actions of CUB were un-Australian which is a far reach from a company that trades so heavily on what it is to be an Australian.

“As an act of solidarity these funds will be provided to help support the effected workers and assist their campaign for full re-instatement” said NSW Secretary Steve Butler.

“This is what being union is all about, standing united and supporting each other in times of need.”

“I have personally visited the picket line in Melbourne and I have meet these workers and understand what they are going through as a result of this bastard act from their employer.”

“I am proud of our membership in NSW for stepping up to the plate to support our brothers and sisters in Victoria during this dispute.” said Steve.

“I encourage all members, their families and friends to consider supporting other brands when next visiting the local bottle shop.” Steve said

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

Endeavour Energy Update - 28 January 2016

Paul Lister - Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dear members

The combined unions will be writing to Endeavour Energy seeking clarification on the company’s position as a result of the Interest Based Bargaining discussions that have taken place both before Senior Deputy President Hamberger and more recently between the parties themselves.

Unions that are party to the Endeavour Energy agreement have made every effort to consider the organisational requirements in the renegotiation of the 2012 agreement and there have been numerous meetings where there have been various options suggested to form the basis of a new agreement.

To date Endeavour Energy have rejected these broad propositions as unacceptable. The combined unions are seeking from Endeavour Energy to confirm their positions in writing as per today’s discussions.

The combined unions now intend to notify a report back to SDP Hamberger and for the negotiations to continue with or without the assistance of SDP Hamberger.

However, in my view, the negotiations today unfortunately took a step backwards.

In Unity
Brad Currey.

Essential Energy Update - 25 January 2016

Paul Lister - Wednesday, January 27, 2016

EE’s latest carrot.

As members would be aware, Essential Energy has made an alleged “once only offer” of an additional 13 weeks additional retention period which can be taken as cash in lieu. This “offer” has been limited by EE to those employees who are redeployees & who have received a “leave schedule”.

The ETU is continuing in our attempts to negotiate an increased package that treats members with respect & dignity, not a one off limited offer.

This latest limited offer has been made by EE with no consultation with the ETU. This in itself is an interesting turn of events with further interest based discussions due to take place on Thursday the 28th of January. The ETU was unaware of the “offer” until informed by members.

This is not an improved redundancy package, it’s a one off carrot that EE says will not be available to anyone after the 29th of January. So what does this mean for anyone that may face redundancy in phase two? , so much for EE showing respect for employees.  

As members are aware, Senior Deputy President Hamberger has instructed the parties to hold confidentiality regarding the discussions. You can be assured that the ETU supported by the other unions, are attempting to increase the redundancy provisions so as to provide a greater outcome for all, not limited by one off carrots.

Unfortunately there has been no agreement reached as yet & the union will continue it’s efforts to pursue improvements.

The action of EE is being considered by the ETU as management ignoring good faith bargaining, this will be addressed with the EE management at the meeting on the 28th.

Members need to seek financial advice.

The ETU strongly recommends that members seek professional financial advice. Decisions that members are faced with have serious long term consequences & professional advice, in the opinion of the union, is an absolute must.

Members are frustrated by the tactics of management, but it is a popular opinion that the management are intentionally frustrating members. Some members are being put on leave that can be up to , & in some situations, exceed 12 months. I find this somewhat amazing for a company that says that it is wanting to get rid of workers to save money. As an example, if a member takes a years leave they will accumulate during that 12 months another 4 weeks annual leave, accumulate up to 2.7 weeks long service leave & accumulate 15% in superannuation. If a member earns $1000 per week, the accumulation as described above adds up to $14500 on top of the $52000 ($1000 x 52 weeks) payment for the leave.

I find the actions of the management extremely questionable when you consider that this actually increases the costs for company vs a member taking accumulated leave in addition to an improved package.

We will provide an update following the meeting on the 28th between the ETU secretary, a representative from the other unions & EE management.

Neville Betts

ETU Ausgrid Update - 12 January 2016

Paul Lister - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

After the Christmas / New Year break, ETU members at Ausgrid are keen to find out where their agreement negotiations are up to, especially as this agreement is one of the most important in decades.

The negotiations with Ausgrid over a new enterprise agreement have been going on since September 2014.

Ausgrid came to the bargaining table with a list of demands not the least of which was the demand that would allow them to make Ausgrid employees forcibly redundant.

When negotiating the present Ausgrid agreement the ETU correctly predicted redundancy would be a major issue in the future and subsequently Ausgrid management signed off on the inclusion of no forced redundancy in the present agreement.

Since then Ausgrid’s management’s focus has changed and management try and unpick what they had agreed to (namely the agreement clause relating no forced redundancy) by whatever means they can, including multiple court actions that the ETU has successfully defended. 

In the current negotiation there has been no progress and that lack of progress has frustrated delegates because there has been nothing to report to members other than another meeting has gone by and still there is no movement.

During this negotiation the ETU have attended all meetings and acted in a manner that has considered the claims put by Ausgrid and reiterated the simple message from members of…

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

In November 2015 a move was made to Interest Based Bargaining facilitated by Fair Work Commission Senior Deputy President Hamberger and it seemed like there was a chance the parties could develop a proposal that would first go to delegates for consideration and if endorsed then to members for a vote.

During an extended lock up over 2 days the ETU and management explored options that had not been considered previously by either party and the capacity to reach consensus was enhanced.   

SDP Hamberger directed that this process be undertaken confidentially and that was agreed to by all parties, that confidentiality requirement has caused some concern from some members because of the lack of information delegates/unions are able to report back.

After the lock up the ETU met with management where some further progress was achieved although management advised that there was a problem with the Australian Tax Office.     

It now appears unlikely that an outcome on the Enterprise Agreement will be available any time soon with management advising the ETU that the Australian Tax Office may not extend the favourable taxation treatment of a mix and match program and the company is awaiting a decision from the Tax Office.

The company has been hesitant to provide further detail until after the AER appeal has been handed down and digested; the company has further advised that the AER appeal decision date has now been pushed out till March 2016.

Management have not indicated when they will return to the negotiations and the ETU is pressing the company for meeting dates.  

As of yesterday, the 11th January 2016, the ETU has relisted the negotiations around the enterprise agreement in the courts before SDP Hamberger for report back, that report back is listed for the 22nd January 2016.

The ETU believe that management will continue to stall the agreement negotiations and then may do the following;

  1. Put a non- union agreement out to workers for a vote. (a non-union agreement means that the delegates and union officers have not endorsed the agreement because they believe that it is not in the members best interest). If the non-union agreement is supported by a majority then workers will have to accept and deal with the outcome, which will undoubtedly mean forced redundancies and a loss of working conditions and a considerable period of a wage freeze.
  2. If the non-union agreement is rejected then the company may instruct their lawyers to make an application to cancel the existing agreement. This aggressive approach will take a number of months to be heard and determined by the Fair Work Commission. All the while the company says it is bleeding $8.6 million per month down from their original claim of $12.6 million per month.

The ETU will defend the continuation of the current agreement whilst participating in the difficult task of negotiating a new agreement with the company.

The best option for everyone is for Ausgrid to get serious about reaching an agreement with their workforce and the unions. This can only be achieved through meaningful discussions that have now been stalled by management.

All members are advised that with the recent court victories for the ETU there is no capacity for the organisation to make employees forcibly redundant and that the Union delegates and officers are determined to get to a stage where a DRAFT agreement can be considered by delegates before being presented to members for a vote.

Further updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

In Unity - Steve Butler, Secretary.

Energex ABB Ring Main Unit Safety Alert

Paul Lister - Thursday, January 07, 2016

Attention of members is drawn to a Safety Alert issued by Energex in relation to ABB Ring Main Unit (RMU).

Click here to view a copy of the safety notice.

The ETU advises that the RMU needs to be used with caution.

Combined Unions Information to Support Members

Paul Lister - Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Dear Members

In conjunction with Essential Energy, the ETU, USU and PA have been working with Beyond Blue to put together an information sheet for members in relation to the impact of job losses on workers in our industry.

The only consideration in these discussions was about what was best for workers given the circumstances the industry finds itself in.

The attached information is not provided with anything other than concern that workers will see workmates facing difficult times and will want to assist their mates wherever they can.

The ETU continues to fight for what is right for you and all workers at Essential Energy and asks that members keep an eye on each other during what are proving to be difficult times.    

Steve Butler
Secretary

 

Information from beyondblue

Retrenchment, or any event causing unexpected financial stress, is a challenging experience for those leaving the workforce and those who remain.

It can be an overwhelming time that takes a toll on people’s health, wellbeing, relationships and sometimes the whole community if the employer is a major stakeholder in a small town or suburb.

In these situations, people may experience a range of emotions similar to symptoms of grief, such as:

  • Shock, disbelief and distress;
  • Anger and mood swings;
  • Social withdrawal and a sense of isolation;
  • Helplessness and loss of purpose;
  • Physical responses such as headaches or stomach pains;
  • Lower sex drive;
  • Fatigue and sleep disruption.

These reactions and feelings are normal and, for most people, will diminish over time.

However, retrenchment or redundancy and financial insecurity can also put people at risk of developing anxiety and/or depression or exacerbating existing mental health conditions.

Maintaining good mental health is as important as looking after your physical health.

Learning more about depression and anxiety is an important first step in protecting your short-term, and life-long, mental health.

There is no shame in asking for support when you need it most and mental health professionals and GPs can help to guide you through these difficult times.

It is important to get professional advice and support if you – or someone you know – is exhibiting:

  • Severe emotional reactions that persist beyond a normal period of adjustment (usually two or more weeks);
  • An inability to function and carry out daily tasks;
  • Using alcohol or other substances to cope;
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

There are some small first steps people can take to reduce the risk of developing anxiety and depression and look after their mental health during this difficult time:

  • Talk honestly and openly with friends and family who will help you to remain positive;
  • Choose news sources carefully and beware of negative rumour-mongering;
  • Maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise program;
  • Avoid self-medicating with drugs and alcohol;
  • Speak to a doctor if a pre-existing medical condition can be aggravated by stress;
  • Write down your worries and most pressing financial concerns and plan which ones to tackle first;
  • Be patient – recovery takes time.

Call the beyondblue Support Service (1300 22 4636) for mental health advice or to discuss any concerns you may have.

Email or chat to beyondblue online at www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport.

For information on retrenchment support visit www.beyondblue.org.au, enter ‘retrenchment’ in the search bar and download a free copy of the booklet Taking Care of Yourself: After retrenchment or financial loss (for employees).

Call Lifeline for 24-hour crisis support, information or local referral on 13 11 14.