Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

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