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…
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;
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.
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.