Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Notice to Ausgrid members regarding fatality

Peter Moss - Monday, January 07, 2019
Dear member

The ETU is aware of the tragic death of Hossam Ibrahim after an incident on the Ausgrid network on Saturday night.

Our thoughts are with Hossam’s family, friends and community. We also acknowledge the ETU members who attended the scene.

Today ETU officials met with Ausgrid to try and further our understanding of the incident at Punchbowl. We raised concerns in relation to current processes at the company.

Ausgrid has undertaken to get back to the union on a number of questions and issues. We will keep members informed as more information becomes available.

The ETU will always advocate for safety to be paramount across the electricity industry for the protection of the public and employees.

In unity
Justin Page
ETU NSW Secretary

Proposed changes to Essential Energy Drug & Alcohol testing policy

Peter Moss - Friday, December 21, 2018
On Tuesday 18 December officials and delegates from the ETU, USU, CFMEU and Professionals Australia met with Essential Energy’s senior management team to discuss the proposed changes to drug and alcohol testing that has been widely canvassed over the last 2 months. The key takeaway from the meeting is that Essential intends to introduce urine testing to complement the current oral swab impairment tests and to lower the Blood Alcohol Concentration threshold to zero. They plan to implement the changes on 1 July 2019 with a wide range of measures and further consultation between now and then.
The conversation was robust. The combined unions left the management team in no doubt about where we stand on this matter. Our positions are clear and united. We do not support the proposed changes. The company has not been able to mount a creditable argument for the need to change the current policy. Nor has Essential been able to provide any statistical information that the current drug and alcohol policy is not achieving its desired outcomes or expectations. Based on the data provided, in 2018 FY 830 tests were conducted, (less than 28% of workforce). This resulted in one positive alcohol test and seven non-negative drug results -- which equates to less than 1% in the breach category. We know one of these drug tests was a targeted test.
According to the Essential Energy CEO, one of the primary reasons for these changes is that most of the company’s footprint is in rural communities. Apparently statistics in these same rural communities show drug and alcohol abuse is a major problem. It appears the CEO has formed the view that a similar proportion of his workforce are likely to be drug and alcohol abusers. The company wants to introduce invasive tests to see what you all get up to outside of the workplace. It’s that simple, that is their justification. We say that the current system acts as a deterrent and their own statistics prove it. Not one safety incident has been attributed to alcohol or drugs.

The company’s current proposal fails to address a number of concerns being raised by our members, delegates and officials, including:
• Lack of detail around rehabilitation programs for people who find themselves caught up in a failed test result for drugs and/or alcohol. This issue needs to be addressed regardless of whether the proposed changes proceed
• Lack of a draft policy to review
• Lack of detail around privacy when conducting a test at work
• Lack of detail around self-testing equipment and process
• Lack of focus in genuinely dealing with suicide prevention & mental health issues that potentially interact with drugs and alcohol
• Lack of information surrounding the cost of the proposed changes and how that will affect AER funding arrangements
• Lack of education and training around drugs & alcohol.

Given this lack of critical detail, the ETU proposed an alternative proposal as an interim measure, supported by other unions. We advocated that the company cease implementation of their proposed changes and immediately review the current system to identify its obvious failings. These include irregular visits by testers (i.e. some depots get done every three months while some haven’t seen testers for 18 months) and the hit or miss approach (i.e. testers arrive 20 minutes after crews have left the depot). We suggest the company rolls out a more rigorous approach for 12 months, then we sit down and analyse the data. If the new data show a significant shift in the wrong direction, then we will sit down and examine what other methods should be explored.
The ETU and the combined unions remain firmly opposed to the current changes. We will continue to advocate that the status quo remains for D&A testing in the workplace.

Justin Page


Peter Moss - Tuesday, December 11, 2018
11 December 2018

Earlier this year certain sections of Ausgrid management attempted to instruct employees on procedures for notifying personal leave absences.
The instructions were that nothing other than a phone call would be accepted. Management’s stated reasons were that they wanted to know what is wrong with you, what medications you are on, what effects the medication has and what work you can do while you are off.
The ETU with the assistance of delegates found that this was a total invasion of privacy, totally unreasonable and against legislative requirements. Furthermore, electrical trades staff cannot be expected to define the effects of medications.
Ausgrid management continued to insist that a phone call was the only acceptable form of notification.
Delegate Jamie Baker escalated the dispute to the Fair Work Commission. On 26 October the Fair Work Commission heard the matter and agreed with the ETU.
The following has now been agreed as the policy for all Ausgrid employees notifying personal leave:
The preference of Ausgrid is that a phone call be made by an employee to their Supervisor/ Manager to notify personal leave, unless it is inconvenient to do so, in which case other means of notification will be accepted, such as a text message or email.
This was a great result for members. We know it is not always convenient to make a phone call due to many contributing factors depending on an individual worker’s circumstances.
The safety and well-being of our members is and will always be paramount for the ETU.

In unity

Mark Buttigieg
ETU organiser

New leadership team at ETU NSW

Peter Moss - Tuesday, December 11, 2018
11 December 2018

Dear member

I write to you today as Secretary of the NSW Branch of the Electrical Trades Union.

Dave McKinley has decided to step down from his role as Secretary. At last night’s ETU State Council, I was unanimously endorsed as Branch Secretary of our great union. I am honored and privileged to be chosen to lead our union into the future.

After 28 years as an ETU member and official, I know many of you and I look forward to working had with you to improve the working conditions within our industry.

I entered the trade as an electrical apprentice at Tomago Aluminium in 1987. I served as an ETU delegate during some of the big industrial battles at the birth of enterprise bargaining.

In 2010 I became an ETU Organiser working out of Newcastle. In 2015 I was elected President of Hunter Workers. In 2016 I was elected ETU Assistant Secretary.

I’ve helped lead the union’s work across major sectors including Ausgrid, Essential Energy, generation and manufacturing. In 2017 I led our successful lobbying campaign to protect NSW electrical trades standards and security for apprentices.

Since my apprenticeship I’ve been proudly union. My commitment to the ETU and our members has never wavered.

My leadership team includes Ben Lister as ETU Assistant Secretary. Ben worked 15 years as an Ausgrid lineworker at West Gosford and was a delegate for most of that time. He was one of our key activists in the Your Rights at Work and Stop the Sell Off campaigns.

Since coming on board as an Organiser in 2014, Ben has worked with members in diverse industries including rail, manufacturing, distribution, solar, and construction and contracting. Ben is a skilled negotiator who was appointed a senior organiser in 2017.

Today we must build on the best traditions of the ETU while innovating for the challenges of the modern era. In recent years the ETU has embraced change in response to events such as the privatisation of the electricity sector. But we need to do more.

Under my leadership the ETU will deepen the Branch’s focus on growth. We must grow to build industrial and political power to achieve the best outcomes for all ETU members.

Our organising drive in construction and supply contracting has delivered strong early results. The ongoing success of these campaigns is essential to the future of the ETU, the integrity of our trade and the welfare of electrical workers everywhere.

I want to acknowledge and thank Dave McKinley for his many years of service to ETU members.

I look forward to working with you as we embrace the challenges ahead with optimism, courage, determination and unity.

In unity
Justin Page
Secretary ETU NSW

PS Please feel free to contact me on justinp@etunsw.asn.au


Peter Moss - Thursday, November 08, 2018
08 November 2018


It has come to my attention that Ausgrid yesterday released a set of 8 so called “non-negotiable” safety points which they had been talking to the union about and which we were not yet satisfied with.

The 8 points which are not finalised were rolled out in Oatley Depot yesterday and distributed via the Wire as a safety scoop throughout Ausgrid. The safety scoop was dated October 2018 and included a version of the non-negotiables which the union had not yet approved. The fact that Ausgrid would release a document dated last month knowing full well that this version was not agreed speaks volumes for their intentions.

Whilst at the very end of the document it does state; “Next steps
We are currently consulting on the non-negotiables. Following the consultation, your manager will take you through them and what they mean for you”.

The ETU is concerned that the non-negotiables were still rolled out at Oatley Depot with managers there already “taking employees through them” clearly pre-empting the outcome of consultation.

To be clear the ETU does not accept the Non-Negotiables in their current form and members should take no notice of the currently circulated version of non-negotiables until further notice.

The ETU always takes safety very seriously, but these points have been prematurely released in a form that would be used as a tool to target and punish our members. This is totally unacceptable. We will ensure that the document is not implemented until we are satisfied that it fairly and genuinely addresses safety issues across the whole of Ausgrid.

In unity,

Mark Buttigieg - ETU organiser

ETU Safety Ban on Removal of Bats Conditionally Lifted

Peter Moss - Friday, October 12, 2018


​​​​​12 October 2018


Members will recall that there is currently a ban on the removal of all bats from overhead mains due to inadequate procedures Ausgrid had in place at the time which did not cater for member safety as the No.1. priority.

ETU O/H delegates and I have met with Ausgrid several times over the past few months in a bid to come up with a safe and workable solution on the process for removal of bats from overhead power lines. Our two main issue have always been that members had not been vaccinated and had not been properly trained in a safe procedure.

Together with Ausgrid, our delegates have come up with a safe procedure which requires 3 people, and which has now been rolled out in tool box talks to all affected work groups.

As a result, the work ban on removal of all dead and alive bats is now lifted and members may now remove the bats so long as the three-person method is employed. If you have not received instruction on this method, then do not perform the removal until you have.

If members do not utilise the 3-person method for bat removal, they are placing themselves at risk and not only breaking a union ban but also Ausgrid policy. In such circumstances the union will not be able to defend any disciplinary action arising out of the use of alternative methods.

Ausgrid are also now offering to vaccinate anyone who wishes to be vaccinated and it is our view that people who are vaccinated should be used as a priority by Ausgrid for any bat removals as this is the best way of eliminating the risk.

In unity,

Mark Buttigieg - ETU organiser

Notice to members: Essential Energy Drug & Alcohol Policy Consultation

Peter Moss - Thursday, September 27, 2018
Essential Energy yesterday announced the company is commencing consultation to update the Drug & Alcohol Policy. CEO John Cleland had the courtesy to inform the ETU last week that they intended to issue a broadcast yesterday announcing the commencement of employee consultation. To date the ETU has as much information as you have received.
Today I requested John convene a face-to-face meeting of all unions to discuss and hopefully agree on a consultation process going forward. As you would be aware, Drug & Alcohol Policies have a long history in the NSW distribution industry including disputation and many court proceedings.
In the ETU’s view, the lack of genuine proper consultation played a significant part in that disputation. I have outlined to John that Essential does not have the best track record on effective consultation and it needs to improve.
At the outset I note the ETU supports proper WH&S Procedures in the workplace, but it needs to be more than words in polices. There is genuine scope for improvement in WH&S but it needs to be backed up by proper training delivered by experts and with ongoing support.
To just say others are doing it, so we should won’t cut it. Essential have not demonstrated that the current system is not adequate. Drug and Alcohol use has many underlying factors that need to be considered. The ETU will ensure that any consultation needs to consider initiatives that go beyond testing.
High-risk industries do have different testing regimes but they also have adapted and implemented initiatives beyond testing. Initiatives that genuinely support and train employees on Drug and Alcohol, Mental Health, impairment and fatigue backed up by proper training and ongoing support from experts in each field.
Essential can certainly improve in all of these areas and we will ensure they are addressed as part of this consultation process.

Justin Page
Assistant Secretary


Peter Moss - Thursday, September 20, 2018
Ausgrid has backpaid an estimated $3 million to around 300 tradespeople after union action led by ETU delegate Jamie Baker.

The backpay rectifies underpayments to ETU members forced onto rolling short-term contracts between 2014 and 2016. The contracts and a skills assessment missed by Ausgrid saw workers paid less than EBA rates.

With assistance from ETU organisers, Jamie built a winning case for backpay.

The outcome was payments averaging $10,000 for affected lineworkers, electricians and cable jointers.

Jamie, a lineworker at Oatley depot, said the episode demonstrates the value of union membership.

‘Credit to Ausgrid for doing the right thing in the end, but it was ETU support that got us there’


Bruce Fan - Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Last week ETU overhead delegates from across Ausgrid met with management in a bid to come up with a safer system of work to deal with the workplace hazard of Post A (private) poles. The result of that meeting was a modified tool box talk which addresses our outstanding concerns and covers the new procedure as well as the introduction of an iAuditor pole assessment work instruction template created to enable a proper hazard assessment of Post A Poles. The ETU through our delegates is now satisfied that these two processes if followed correctly, will control the hazard. As a result of these improvements agreed to by Ausgrid; The Safety Ban on working on Post A Poles is now lifted subject to the following;

  1. Work can only occur on Post A pole after you have received the latest tool box talk and the associated instructions and understood them.
  2. The iAuditor pole assessment work instruction template must be used by all staff to assess the condition of private A poles prior to commencing work.

The meeting last week also discussed longer term solutions to problems identified which need to be developed including;

  • Improved Training requirements, scheduling and methods for delivery of training (classroom or in field)
  • Pre-inspection of poles during the planning phase
  • An on-going review and monitoring of Field Services A Pole inspection template (work instruction) on iAuditor


The ETU and Ausgrid have also committed to discuss private A pole specifications with members of the appropriate regulatory committees that are responsible for making representation on Ausgrid's behalf for asset issues affecting NSW Service and Installation Rules and application Australian Standards. These discussions will include making representations for the standards to insist on private poles being made of a material which is not subject to the corrosion that a steel pole is.

Mark Buttigieg

ETU Organiser

0417 208 447

Launch of ETU Active for ETU Honorary Members

Peter Moss - Thursday, August 09, 2018