Electrical Contracting, Service Industry and Equipment Technicians
Electrical Contracting, Service Industry and Equipment Technicians
Earlier this week our union held its biennial conference in Wollongong where a number of important matters were discussed. 120 delegates from across NSW and the ACT had the opportunity to raise issues, debate matters and adopt policy positions that impact on CEPU/ETU members.
A more comprehensive conference report will appear in the next LiveWire but some of the items covered at conference included:
OH&S matters including safety committees, cross industry safety matters, communication, asbestos safety, changes to Workers Compensation and the possible provision of defibrillators in some industries.
Industrial and legal matters including how ETU members can access the services of NEW Law when making a workers compensation claim.
National Licensing and the national apprentice wage case.
Improvements to union communications including social media and the launch of a new & improved website; and
Improvements to ETU membership such as Journey Cover Insurance.
These items were discussed over a period of three days and the input from delegates was very much appreciated. It is the effort of our delegates that often goes un-noticed and without thanks, so I would like to say a big thank you to those members that take on the role of delegate in order to represent your colleagues, without you our union would not be as strong as it is.
As mentioned the union has launched a new website. Our last website was launched in 2009 and was in need of an overhaul. The union had four objectives in this overhaul including – introducing the ability for new members to join the union and pay online, simplify the layout and navigation, provide relevant and real time information and incorporate our social media accounts with the website.
Members will also now be able to request an electronic copy of their agreement through the website and access news, updates and notices relevant to your workplace and industry through the new industry groupings on the home page.
I encourage all members to have a look at the new website (www.etunsw.com.au) and we will continue to look at ways to improve interaction with members online.
One of the benefits of ETU membership is access to our annual education scholarships for members, their children and grandchildren. Nominations for this year close at the end of June so I encourage all members, your children or grandchildren that are studying at diploma level or high to submit an application.
We will be awarding six scholarships each worth $2,000 to assist with education expenses. You can read more about the ETU Education Scholarships here.
The Fair Work Commission has now finished hearing the ETU and other unions’ applications to improve wages and conditions for apprentices. The Full Bench reserved its decision.
Background: What We (And Others) Applied For
Increasing award wages has been central to the ETU’s Apprentice Campaign. To that end, as part of the two-yearly review of modern awards, the ETU applied to vary the Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010 to:
increase award wages for junior apprentices from 40%/52%/70%/82% of the trade rate to 60%/65%/75%/90% of the trade rate;
provide that adult apprentices must be paid at no less than the lowest classification in the award and, if an apprentice is employed with the same employer prior to becoming an apprentice, be paid a wage no lower than the award rate applying to the classification in which they were employed;
require employers to pay for travel and accommodation costs associated with training; and
introduce new award obligations concerning mentoring, supervision, and recognition of service, as well as for the provision of two weeks’ notice prior to an employer applying to suspend or terminate a training contract.
The ETU also applied to increase apprentice wages and compensation for travelling to training under the Electrical Power Industry Award 2010 and the Telecommunications Services Award 2010, as well as to increase the lift industry allowance payable to apprentices under the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010.
The ACTU, AMWU, CFMEU and CEPU – Plumbing Division also applied to vary other awards to improve conditions for apprentices.
A number of parties either applied to introduce competency based wage progression, or urged that it be introduced. The ETU strongly opposed any variation to awards to apply competency based progression to electrical apprentices.
The Australian Industry Group (AIG) applied to vary the National Training Wage Schedule in all awards to try and exclude any existing payments to trainees to cover costs incurred in travelling to training.
Employers / Commonwealth Government
The union applications were opposed by a wide range of employer groups including: the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), the Electrical Contractors Association (Master Electricians); the AIG; Master Builders Australia; the Housing Industry Association; Australian Business Industrial; the Motor Traders Association; the Master Plumbers NSW and Victoria; the Coal Industry Employer Group; all State chambers of commerce and industry; and the Australian Federation of Employers and Industry.
Applications were opposed on a number of very technical jurisdictional grounds and on the merits of the claims. NECA’s central argument was that, in the electrical contracting industry, the proposed increases, or any in fact increase, was not affordable.
The Commonwealth Government supported a “suitable increase” to junior apprentice wages, the introduction of rates of pay for adult apprentices and the union claims relating to employers paying for travel costs. Although the Commonwealth Government strongly supported competency based progression, it also supported an exclusion for electrical apprentices.
Material Before the Full Bench
All applications were heard together over some 22 hearing days. The case opened with oral submissions from Dave Oliver (ACTU Secretary); Peter Tighe; Andrew Dettmer (AMWU National President) and Dave Noonan (CFMEU – C&G Division Secretary).
ETU material in support came from all state branches and also included the Workplace Research Centre Report “The Changing Situation of Electrical Apprentices”. The ETU and NECA brought the largest amount of witness evidence, each with over twenty witnesses. Most parties also relied upon a substantial volume of survey results, research reports and other material.
What Result is Likely?
The Full Bench gave little express indication of its views on either the jurisdictional objections or the merits of particular claims. A best guess might be that the unions’ wage related claims have a better prospect of success than some of the non-wage claims. Any movement on wages appears likely to include a multiple entry wage rate for first year apprentices, for example the three level model based upon years of schooling presently contained in the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010. There is some cause for optimism that an increase of some kind might be granted.
The Full Bench gave no indication of when a decision might be made. Again, a best guess might be that, given the very substantial volume of material before the Commission, a decision could be published in 6 to 8 weeks.
If the Fair Work Commission does grant substantial wage increases to apprentices, it is very likely that they will be transitioned.
It is proposed that the apprentice committee be reconvened to be given the opportunity for a more comprehensive report concerning the proceedings before the Full Bench and to plan the next stages of the Apprentice Campaign.
Apprentice Craig Stewart received almost $7,000 in backpay after his employer relied on incorrect advice from employer group NECA.
Craig served the third year of his electrical apprenticeship in 2012, but was paid at the second-year rate by Electrical Board Makers.
The St Marys-based company froze the young worker’s pay after he failed two TAFE subjects.
Electrical Board Makers underpaid the ETU member for a full year, leaving him on an hourly rate of approximately $12, when he was legally entitled to around $16.
The firm deflected Craig’s attempts to rectify the underpayment, only to cave in at the 11th hour when the ETU and Fair Work Australia got involved.
Company director David Merrick admitted Electrical Board Makers had erred but blamed bad advice from NECA.
‘NECA has changed the advice given to us earlier regarding competency based progression of apprentices,’ Merrick admitted in an email to organiser Stewart Edward on 4 February.
NECA – the National Electrical and Communications Association – is the peak employer body for electrical contracting companies.
Craig Stewart is now happy in a new job with another electrical firm, but he remains bitter about his treatment.
He says the company was well aware of ongoing abuse in its workshop that forced him to seek medical help for anxiety and depression. The abuse severely hampered Craig’s ability to study and at one stage left him feeling suicidal.
He made written complaints and was supported by the ETU, but the problem continued.
Craig said the ETU was ‘absolutely brilliant’ in achieving the $7,000 backpay.
‘The first thing any apprentice should do is sign up with the union. That is a big lesson that I learned.’
ETU organiser Stewart Edward slammed NECA for advising Craig’s employer that his pay could be frozen.
‘It’s a massive fail from the peak employer body. They owe Craig and the company an apology.’
‘This was resolved on the eve of a scheduled Fair Work mediation. The young man was put through a year of unnecessary stress,’ said Stewart.
The ETU now provides Journey Cover Insurance for all financial members in NSW and the ACT.
This means that you are covered by ETU insurance if you are injured or have an accident travelling to or from work.
The union introduced Journey Cover Insurance in February after savage cuts to workers compensation left members exposed.
Last year the O’Farrell Government abolished journey cover for most NSW workers.
That is why the ETU has stepped up. We must ensure our members are protected from potentially catastrophic health and financial damage. We are now one of just a few unions to offer journey cover to all financial members as an automatic right at no extra cost.
Any member injured while travelling to or from work after 11 February 2013 is now covered and the benefits are generous.
Eligible injured members will receive 100 percent of wages up to $2,000 per week for the period they are unable to work due to injury.
Cover is available starting 14 days after the accident or injury.
To make a claim contact the ETU. The union will give you a claim number. for further details about this new benefit visit our Industrial Support Pages.
ETU members should be aware of the dangers of working in
heat. Please read this and follow the advice provided by the Union and
WorkCover NSW Hot and Cold Environments.
WorkCover NSW Working in Heat
Please read this ETU Notice to Members which includes advice from the union and the ETU's working in heat policy.
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