All ETU members, supporters and family and friends are invited to May Day 2018.
The Sydney event meets at 11 am, Sunday 6 May, Hyde Park North.
Details of Newcastle and Wollongong events will be posted soon.
24hr Media Enquiries: 0408 231 858
All ETU members, supporters and family and friends are invited to May Day 2018.
The Sydney event meets at 11 am, Sunday 6 May, Hyde Park North.
Details of Newcastle and Wollongong events will be posted soon.
The Electrical Trades Union has called on Dubbo MP Troy Grant to urgently intervene following revelations that Essential Energy plans to close a warehouse that provides materials for maintenance and repairs to the electricity network across a large part of the state.
The Essential Energy warehouse in Hawthorn Street, Dubbo could be closed in as little as four weeks, resulting in six local jobs being lost and requiring electrical equipment to be shipped from either Wagga Wagga or Grafton when needed in an emergency.
The union said the Dubbo warehouse is responsible for providing items to Essential Energy depots across a large part of the state, including: Bathurst, Blayney, Broken Hill, Bourke, Canowindra, Cobar, Condobolin, Coonamble, Cowra, Forbes, Gilgandra, Lake Cargelligo, Molong, Narromine, Nyngan, Oberon, Orange, Tottenham, Walgett, Warren, West Wyalong, Wilcannia, and Young.
ETU assistant secretary Justin Page said that National Party MPs promised to save Essential Energy ahead of the 2015 election, but had repeatedly failed to live up to that commitment.
“Far from saving Essential Energy, National Party MPs across the state have stood by while 2,000 regional jobs were slashed and more than 100 depots and workplaces were closed down,” Mr Page said.
“Dubbo MP Troy Grant and National Party leader John Barilaro need to stand up to their Liberal Party masters in Macquarie Street and tell them that regional NSW will not suffer any further cuts to essential services.
“On average, people in regional NSW are waiting up to three times longer to have their power restored following a blackout, yet the NSW Government’s only response is to allow yet another vital facility to be closed down.”
Mr Page said there was no question regional power users — who already pay much higher prices for electricity — would be left worse off following the closure of the Dubbo warehouse.
“This warehouse is one of only three similar facilities run by Essential Energy, and as well as managing the materials needed for ongoing maintenance and repairs it plays a vital role during emergencies,” he said.
“When bushfires or storms cause widespread damage to the electrical network across large parts of NSW, it is the centrally located Dubbo warehouse that ensures the materials that are needed to get the lights back on are delivered quickly to the areas in need.
“Troy Grant and John Barilaro need to stop the death by a thousand cuts that Essential Energy has been suffering during the past three years and instead ensure that service standards and quality jobs are protected for the sake of everyone living in regional NSW.
“The promise that they would save Essential Energy needs to be turned into genuine actions, which requires the National Party to stand up to the Berejiklian Government, say enough is enough, and demand an end to the closures of facilities and cutting of jobs in regional NSW.”
Rising power prices and poor service from the privatised electricity sector has resulted in a surge of customer complaints, according to new data from the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW.
According to the EWON quarterly activity report, in the last three months of 2017 NSW electricity users made a total of 5,283 complaints regarding electricity services, a jump of more than 25 per cent from the 4,100 that were received during the same quarter the year before.
Driving this rise was a 42.7 per cent leap in complaints about high power bills, while total complaints against electricity retailers climbed 28.9 per cent and failings by electricity distributors were up 10.5 per cent.
The Electrical Trades Union said the data highlighted the ongoing failure of the Liberal National Government’s privatisation policies.
“The Liberal and National Parties went to an election promising that consumers would be better off if the State’s electricity sector was privatised,” ETU secretary Dave McKinley said.
“Instead, we’ve seen more than 2000 jobs — many in regional areas — slashed by the new private owners.
“The result of this loss of skilled workers has been a reduction in service standards, less resources for maintenance, and slower response times to major outages and emergencies.
“At the same time power prices have surged, delivering private owners massive profits while consumers are paying much more money for a poorer quality service.”
Mr McKinley said the union was unsurprised by the data, saying it aligned with the experiences in Victoria and South Australia following privatisation of electricity services in those states.
“The fact that complaints have leapt in NSW is no surprise to anyone who has experienced power privatisation in other parts of the country,” he said.
“For all the promises of better services and lower prices, private owners of power assets have shown they are much more interested in increasing profits by slashing jobs and reducing services, rather than maintaining the electricity network as an essential service.
“Unfortunately, we expect the situation will continue to get worse, with these private operators continuing to slash staff, cut costs, and increase prices — all with the blessing of the Australian Energy Regulator.
“The only way to solve the problem of skyrocketing bills and falling service levels is to return the electricity supply chain to public ownership, where reliability and service levels can be prioritised over profits.”
Planned industrial action by workers at Ausgrid, the nation’s largest electricity distributor has been put on hold after more than 100 workplace delegates this afternoon gave their conditional support to a workplace agreement that will deliver wage rises to staff for the first time in four years.
The development follows a vote last month where thousands of union members employed at Ausgrid, which owns and operates the electricity poles and wires that deliver power across Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Hunter, overwhelmingly supported imposing work stoppages, bans and other industrial actions unless a new wage deal was struck.
Today’s meeting examined a revised offer by Ausgrid management that includes pay increases of 2.75 per cent, 2.5 per cent, and 2.25 per cent over the next three years, along with a $1,600 cash bonus for each employee, and protection against forced redundancies in line with the NSW Government’s privatisation employment protections.
The Electrical Trades Union said workers at the company, which is jointly owned by the NSW Government, Australian Super and IFM Investors, have endured a wage freeze since 2014, along with the loss of almost 2000 skilled jobs during the same time period.
“Union delegates representing their co-workers across the network this afternoon voted to provide their conditional support to key elements of Ausgrid’s offer,” ETU secretary Dave McKinley.
“The agreement is subject to further negotiations and improvements to agreement wording.”
“After four years of failed negotiations, the loss of approximately a third of the workforce, and a freeze on wages, the ETU is optimistic that full agreement may now be possible once members have had the opportunity to vote on a final offer.
“Industrial action has always been a last resort, and it is disappointing that it took the threat of major customer disruptions to finally get Ausgrid management to come to the negotiating table with a half decent offer for members to consider.”
“There is more work to do however negotiations now appear to be heading the right direction.”
Thousands of union members employed by the largest electricity distributor in New South Wales have voted overwhelmingly to take part in a range of work stoppages, bans and other industrial action from as soon as next month unless an agreement covering wage increases and career progression opportunities can be reached.
Employees at Ausgrid, which is jointly owned by the NSW Government, Australian Super and IFM Investors, have not received a pay rise since 2014 and have also had to endure surging workload demands as almost 2,000 jobs have been slashed during the same period.
Ausgrid owns and operates the electricity poles and wires that deliver power to more than a million homes and businesses across Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Hunter.
The protected action ballot, conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, asked more than 2,800 members of the Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union, Community and Public Sector Union, and Professionals Australia whether they supported taking part in a range of actions.
The AEC found overwhelmingly support for all the proposed actions, with:
This outcome of the vote allows union members at Ausgrid to lawfully commence industrial action within the next month, with delegates of the combined unions to meet on January 31 to determining the timing and format of any stoppages.
Electrical Trades Union organiser Mark Buttigieg said workers had been left with no choice but to consider industrial action by Ausgrid management.
“Our members have endured four years of wage freezes, with no pay increase since 2014,” Mr Buttigieg said.
“During this same time, Ausgrid executives awarded themselves pay increases averaging 5.3 per cent a year, while they also enjoyed average bonuses of more than $50,000 each in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“Our members work day and night to keep the power on for consumers, so the last thing they want to do is impact the public, but the repeated failure by management to resolve these issues has created a situation where industrial action is the only option left.”
United Services Union energy manager Peter Campise said workers were also concerned by management’s push for a new policy that would severely impact on future career progression.
“Not content to freeze wages for four years, Ausgrid are trying to push through a scheme that would result in new employees receiving lower rates of pay, while at the same time making it much harder for existing staff to receive promotions into more senior roles,” Mr Campise said.
“Our members are simply asking for a fair deal, with a modest pay rise of 3 per cent a year and policies in place that allow people to grow their skills and make their way into more rewarding roles over time.
“Ausgrid workers just want their fair share, particularly as they’ve delivered huge productivity increases in recent years of between 43 and 62 per cent, while the loss of 1,987 jobs in recent years has forced much greater workloads onto those who remain.”
Staff at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex will stop work this afternoon to protest against efforts by CSIRO management to forcibly implement the Australian Government’s restrictive wages policy, which threatens to negatively impacting their wages and conditions.
More than 70 employees at the facility, including operational, engineering and administrative staff, will stop work for an hour from 2.20pm today, delaying the handover of communications responsibilities from the Goldstone deep space complex in California.
The Tidbinbilla facility is one of three deep-space communications facilities that support dozens of interplanetary spacecraft missions as part of the NASA Deep Space Network, the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system on earth. While the centre is managed and operated by the CSIRO, it is entirely funded from NASA's space exploration budget with no financial contribution from the Australian Government.
The industrial action involves members of the Electrical Trades Union, Professionals Australia, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
ETU Canberra organiser Mick Koppie said negotiations between the unions and the CSIRO had been ongoing for nine months but had bogged down over management’s attempts to impose the Turnbull Government’s controversial wages policy, designed to reduce the pay and conditions of public servants.
“We have an extraordinary situation where workers at a facility that is completely funded by NASA to provide vital space communications are having their wages and conditions attacked as part of the Turnbull Government’s ideological war against the public service,” Mr Koppie said.
“Despite the fact that not one cent of funding for the Tidbinbilla deep space complex comes from the Commonwealth Government, workers have been told by management that they need to be covered by the restrictive wages policy that has already caused extensive industrial unrest across the public service.
“Today’s industrial action has not been taken lightly, but workers feel that delaying the scheduled handover of communications from California is the only way the leadership at NASA will be made fully aware of the mismanagement of this vital facility that is taking place at the behest of the Australian Government.”
Mr Koppie said industrial action was likely to escalate further if CSIRO management refused to budge, potentially causing disruption to NASA’s global deep space tracking and communication capabilities.
“Our members know just how vital their work is for maintaining communications with significant interplanetary research missions, which is why they have endured nine months of failed negotiations before taking this action,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the CSIRO board has dug its heels in and is insisting the Commonwealth’s wages policy be imposed on Tidbinbilla, leaving workers with no choice but to stop work in protest.”
The Electrical Trades Union is seeking urgent meetings with principal NBN contractor Broadspectrum in order to recover wages totalling $18,000 and payments for tools worth $25,000.
Broadspectrum, a Spanish-owned multinational conglomerate, subcontracted Superb Cabling, which in turn forced its workers to obtain ABN numbers to roll out NBN infrastructure in Western Sydney.
ETU secretary Dave McKinley said Superb Cabling had failed to pay its workers for tools and wages totalling more than $40,000.
In addition, the dodgy subcontractor has left NBN job sites in Georges Hall, south-west Sydney, in a dangerous state, leaving behind exposed asbestos believed to be from telecommunications pits.
“This is a classic example of workers being exploited on a major taxpayer-funded infrastructure project that is failing at every opportunity,” Mr McKinley said.
“Broadspectrum tried to wipe its hands of these issues by setting up complicated and convoluted subcontracting arrangements leaving workers exploited and the public exposed to deadly asbestos.
“This is a pyramid contracting arrangement where those at the bottom are ripped off through unfair contracts and dodgy business arrangements, something Broadspectrum should be ashamed of,” said Mr McKinley.
“The NBN is turning out to be a monumental disaster exploiting workers and failing to deliver promised outcomes for customers.
“The ETU calls on NBN Co to undertake a full audit of Broadspectrum and its subcontractors to ensure workers receive their full pay and entitlements.”
In a very rare move, SafeWork NSW has issued a Prohibition Order, shutting down the $200 million renovation of the Sydney Opera House after electrical workers raised the alarm over deadly asbestos on site.
Scientific testing last Friday confirmed samples taken from work areas at the iconic site contained friable
asbestos, posing a serious health risk and leaving workers with no other option but to walk off the job immediately.
On Monday, the safety regulator issued builder Laing O’Rourke with the order, requiring all work to cease in the ceiling space of the Joan Sutherland Theatre - the Opera House’s second biggest theatre and performance space.
The Electrical Trades Union said 35 electricians employed by electrical contractor Downer have been exposed to loose, cancer-causing asbestos fibres while installing cabling.
“Opera House workers, performers and patrons have been put at serious risk because builder Laing O’Rourke has continually failed to find a solution to this critical safety issue,” ETU secretary Dave McKinley said.
“This is the second time in two months asbestos concerns have shut down renovations at the Opera House and the ETU is demanding to be involved in approving any asbestos removal or remediation plans.
“The NSW Government owns this building and must step up to ensure the asbestos removal is done properly as part of this major upgrade, particularly given the builder is receiving $200 million taxpayer dollars to carry out the renovations.
“The ETU is calling for the full removal of asbestos from the Opera House as part of the renovation works to also protect future generations of workers, performers and patrons.”
Asbestos contamination at the Opera House was first identified two months ago, with SafeWork NSW issuing improvement notices to builder Laing O’Rourke, giving the company seven days to eliminate the threat to workers.
Instead of clearing up the dangers, Laing O’Rourke has threatened to take workers to the Fair Work Commission, accusing them of taking unlawful industrial action after they chose to put their safety first and stop work on the site.
“These workers were faced with putting their jobs and even their lives on the line, knowing they were working on a potentially deadly site,” Mr McKinley said.
“The ETU will always fight for the safety of workers at the Opera House to ensure their workplace is free of hazardous and deadly asbestos.
“The NSW has an obligation to future generations that sites like the Opera House are cleared of asbestos so that this scourge doesn’t continue for years to come.”
Electrical workers this morning stopped work on the $200 million renovation of the Sydney Opera House, refusing to continue with the installation of cabling through the iconic building after receiving confirmation that potentially-deadly friable asbestos had again been located in work areas.
Scientific testing of samples collected yesterday were this morning confirmed to contain friable asbestos, sparking a meeting of electrical workers where they decided to walk off the job immediately until the serious safety issue was resolved.
The incident is the second time in two months that asbestos concerns have halted renovation works on the iconic building, with the Electrical Trades Union demanding the safety regulator and NSW Government intervene to ensure the issue is resolved.
“This issue was first identified two months ago, with SafeWork NSW giving builder Laing O'Rourke a weak slap on the wrist. The company had seven days to remove the asbestos or eliminate the threat to workers through appropriate safety measures and have clearly failed to do so,” ETU secretary Dave McKinley said.
“Electricians yesterday raised the alarm that they were again being exposed to loose asbestos fibres, which has now been confirmed by scientific testing.
“Two months after this major safety issue was uncovered, and the builder was ordered to rectify it by the safety regulator, we have again seen workers exposed to these carcinogenic fibres.”
Mr McKinley said the union was demanding the NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Keen, immediately launch an investigation as to why SafeWork NSW refuses to impose a prohibition notice on Laing O'Rourke, which would prevent any construction work from taking place in the contaminated areas until the asbestos was isolated and removed by specialist contractors.
“It is completely unacceptable that workers, performers and the general public continue to be exposed to a toxic substance at this iconic building, particularly as the builder is receiving $200 million from taxpayers to carry out the renovations,” he said.
“Electricians have made a decision to put their safety first, despite the fact that Laing O'Rourke previously threatened to have them prosecuted in the Fair Work Commission after accusing them of taking unlawful industrial action when they last stopped work over asbestos concerns.
“It’s pretty clear the system is broken when workers are threatened with legal action for refusing to expose themselves to a deadly substance like asbestos, yet the safety regulator seems unwilling to ensure the builder is abiding by workplace health and safety laws.
“The NSW Government need to get off their backsides, take responsibility for this serious issue, and ensure that all asbestos is removed from the Opera House.”
Power unions have been forced to lift a ban on training overseas consultants hired by electricity distributor Ausgrid to replace 35 workers from Newcastle and Sydney after the Fair Work Commission threatened to issue orders against them.
Members of the United Services Union and Electrical Trades Union had been refusing to take part in training India-based IT contractors that will replace more than a third of the workforce in Ausgrid’s Geographic Information System section.
The electricity distributor launched legal action against the unions in the Fair Work Commission, with the matter heard yesterday by FWC deputy president Peter Sams.
Deputy President Sams issued a recommendation to the unions, saying he would issue binding orders against them unless the training ban was immediately lifted.
ETU secretary Dave McKinley said the outcome of the case was clear evidence that Australia’s industrial laws were stacked against the interests of working people.
“What was made clear was that — under Australia’s current workplace laws — it is unlawful for someone to take an ethical stand and refuse to train overseas contractors who have been hired to take the jobs of their colleagues,” Mr McKinley said.
“Not only does the Fair Work Act fail to protect quality local jobs, it actually prevents people from following their conscience — effectively forcing them to be part of the process of replacing friends and colleagues.
“We have agreed to lift our bans — under legal duress — but we are still looking at all available avenues to save these 35 jobs from being sent to India under the deal between Ausgrid management and Tata Consultancy Services.”
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said it was now up to the new private owners of Ausgrid — AustralianSuper and IFM Investors — to intervene to save the jobs.
“These funds claim to ethically invest the retirement savings of Australian workers, yet they are allowing managers at a company they majority-own to slash jobs by outsourcing them to India,” Mr Kelly said.
“These investors should demonstrate their commitment to Australian jobs by ensuring these specialist positions remain in this country.
“They should also commit to abiding by the spirit of the job protections that were put in place by the NSW Parliament to prevent power privatisation from being a tool to simply slash jobs and services.
“We are also calling on the NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin to take action to ensure the state’s electricity network is operated by skilled local workers.”
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