ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

For media enquiries please contact George Houssos on 0418 655 682 or Tim Vollmer on 0404 273 313

WestConnex workers evacuated again from tunnel following generator failure, burst water pipe

Peter Moss - Thursday, February 07, 2019
More than 300 workers were this morning evacuated from sections of the WestConnex motorway tunnels following issues with a generator that provides power to the project, along with a broken water pipe.

It is the second time this week that work has been delayed on the project, with the first incident requiring more than 200 electricians to down tools after raw sewerage overflowed from a portable toilet block into the tunnel.

Electrical Trade Union officials have again attended the site today, with workers involved in the latest evacuation reporting concerns about confusion with the evacuation procedure, which could have dire consequences if a life-threatening incident took place.

ETU Secretary Justin Page said it was very concerning that multiple safety incidents forcing the mass evacuation of workers in the tunnel had taken place this week.

“This is a $16.8 billion infrastructure project, it’s the biggest infrastructure project in the state, yet basic health and safety systems appear to be repeatedly failing, delaying work on the project and putting workers at risk,” Mr Page said.

“One incident might be bad luck, but when each day seems to bring another serious issue, it raises valid questions about how the NSW Government is managing this project.

“In the latest incident, more than 300 workers had to evacuate at about 9.45am when there were issues with the generators that provides power to the tunnels.

“Earlier this week, more than 200 workers had to be removed from the tunnel after raw sewerage leaked from a portable toilet block, running through a section of the tunnel.

“Following both incidents, workers have reported concerns to the union about problems with the evacuation procedures, along with a lack of effective communication from management, which they fear could have deadly consequences if the evacuation was for a life-threatening emergency.

“Not only are these incidents putting the health and safety of workers at risk, each time a major incident stops work on this major infrastructure project it further pushes back the completion date, impacting the hundreds of thousands of motorists who are waiting for it to open.

“The Berejiklian Government need to get off their hands and start taking action to ensure this project can be completed safely and on time.”

Media contacts: George Houssos 0418 655 682 or Tim Vollmer 0404 273 313

Overflowing raw sewerage halts work on WestConnex

Peter Moss - Wednesday, February 06, 2019
MEDIA RELEASE
Wednesday 6 February 2019
Overflowing sewerage halts work on WestConnex


Work on the electrical fitout of the WestConnex motorway tunnels in Sydney’s inner west has been hit by further delays after raw sewerage overflowed from portable toilets at Haberfield, forcing hundreds of workers to down tools.

More than 200 electricians were forced to halt work following the sewerage leak.

Electrical Trade Union officials this morning met with electricians on the project to investigate their reports of unsafe and inadequate amenities on the $16.8 billion motorway project.

Workers at the meeting also raised a range of other health and safety concerns regarding conditions inside the tunnel, including: poorly maintained access and egress, limited lighting and signage, inconsistent and ad hoc evacuation instructions, and a lack of effective communication.

ETU Secretary Justin Page said union officials this morning carried out inspections of a number of areas of the tunnel, in particular examining the health and safety implications of inadequate and unhygienic amenities.

“Our members are doing their best to get this massive infrastructure project finished, but it’s impossible to do their job when they are being exposed to raw sewerage because management can’t even ensure they have access to functional amenities,” Mr Page said.
“More than 200 electricians were left with no option but to down tools, with their employer sending them home due to the unhygienic and unsafe presence of raw sewerage in their workplace.

“It is absolutely incomprehensible that the state’s biggest infrastructure project, which is costing taxpayers $16.8 billion, can’t even manage to have working toilets.

“It’s time for the Berejiklian Government to put an end to their hands-off management of these massive infrastructure projects and take charge to ensure the health and safety or workers is protected.

“The reason so many of these major infrastructure projects have seen delays, cost blowouts, and serious safety issues is because the NSW Government refuses to actually take responsibility, instead leaving it to private contractors who have proven they are unable or unwilling to manage these projects safely.”

Media contacts: ​George Houssos 0418 655 682 or Tim Vollmer 0404 273 313

Sydney Change The Rules Rally. 12 noon, Tuesday 23 October, Belmore Park

Bruce Fan - Tuesday, October 09, 2018


National Door-knock by Union NSW

Bruce Fan - Wednesday, August 29, 2018

National Door-knock Reid

Join us in the Reid federal electorate by click the link above

When 4 out of 5 Australian Workers have not had pay rise in the last 12 months, you know the rules around work are broken.

When Scott Morrison and the Liberals cut Penalty Rates for some of our most lowly paid workers and then moves to give the Big Banks a $17 Billion dollar tax cut, you know the rules are broken.

When Craig Laundy, your Federal Member of Parliament in the seat of Robertson recieves a $5000 pay rise this year but votes 8 times to cut the pay packet of local workers that depend on penalty rates to the tune of $70 per week, you know the rules are broken.

So when the rules are broken - the only question is will you be part of the conversation to Change the Rules?

Union members across the country are coming together on the first day of spring to do what we do best, change the conversation in our community to highlight sprialling out of control living expenses and why Aussie workers deserve a pay rise!

National Door-knock Robertson

Join us in the Robertson federal electorate by click the link above

When 4 out of 5 Australian workers have not had a pay rise in the last 12 months, you know the rules around work are broken.

When Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals cut penalty rates for over 5600 workers on the Central Coast yet is campaigning to give the Big Banks a $17 Billion dollar tax cut, you know the rules are broken.

When Lucy Wicks, your Federal Member of Parliament in the seat of Robertson recieves a $5000 pay rise this year but votes 8 times to cut the pay packet of local workers that depend on penalty rates to the tune of $70 per week, you know the rules are broken.

So when the rules are broken - the only question is will you be part of the conversation to Change the Rules?

Union members across the country are coming together on the first day of spring to do what we do best, change the conversation in our community to highlight sprialling out of control living expenses and why Aussie workers deserve a pay rise!


The launch of ETU Active

Bruce Fan - Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dear Honorary Member, 

I write to invite you to the launch of ETU Active, our new organisation for retired ETU activists.

ETU Active is one of the most exciting initiatives our union has taken in recent years.

The concept came from Honorary Members who told us they want to make an ongoing contribution to the ETU’s campaigns.

‘We have the experience, the skills and the fire-in-the-belly: give us a role’ – that is the message from many of our retired members.

ETU Active is, as the name suggests, a campaigning group that will allow our Honorary Members to play an active support role in the union’s key campaigns, whether industrial or political.

We are confident ETU Active will strengthen the ETU’s capacity to campaign effectively for our members and the future of our trade.

If that interests you, please try and attend the launch of ETU Active, where you’ll hear ETU Life Member John Robertson and Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey.

Please RSVP to joannet@etunsw.com.au or on 9267 4844. If you are unable to attend but want to stay in touch with ETU Active please also let us know so that keep you informed of ETU Active news and events.

I look forward to seeing all of you, if not at the launch, at our Honorary Members luncheons later this year.

In solidarity

Dave McKinley

ETU Secretary

ETU to call on Coroner and Keelty to examine role of energy regulator funding cuts in Tathra fires

Paul Lister - Friday, March 23, 2018

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) will write to both the NSW Coroner and Mick Keelty, charged with investigating the Tathra fires, asking both to consider the role of the Australian Energy regulator (AER) in forcing maintenance cuts on power companies.

An investigation by Rural Fire Service (RFS) specialist investigators reported late yesterday that electricity network assets are likely to have played a role in starting the Tathra fire, which resulted in more than 60 homes being lost and damage to countless others.

Similar devestating bushfires in the last 10 years in both Victoria and the Blue Mountains were found to have been caused by vegetation coming in to contact with power assets during extreme weather events On both occassions significant class action litigation resulted from families who had lost their homes.

ETU Assistant Secretary Justin Page said today that the role of the Australian Energy Regulator in cutting maintenance funding to power companies was a national disgrace and directly resulted in power companies being unable to adequately manage effective maintenance programs including vegetation near power lines.

“The AER needs to be brought to account as a result of this devestating fire. Tathra is potentially the latest example in a long list of fires caused by cuts to maintenance by power networks.”

“In an era of extreme weather events, this faceless regulator has consciously chosen to ignore the public and community safety implications of its decisions and has chosen to focus solely on economic arguments.”

“This is at least the fourth significant national tragedy that has occured for arguably the same reasons.  This needs to be a part of both upcoming investigations into the Tathra bush fire.”

In 2015 the NSW ETU formally raised concerns with the AER about proposed cuts to vegetation maintenance, citing bushfire risk following expert analysis (copies available). The AER however ignored the ETU’s concerns and proceeded to slash maintenance funding for all NSW power companies.

“Communities have suffered significant loss during events such as the recent Tathra bushfire and network operators have been placed under undue pressure when it comes to maintaining a large network of aging infrastructure.” said Mr Page

In a 2016 media release, then ETU NSW Secretary Steve Butler said about the AER “unsustainably slashing the money spent on maintaining, repairing and operating the network simply leads to inadequate infrastructure that may spark bushfires, fail in periods of extreme weather, or result in a growing number of blackouts and service disruptions.”

READ THE ETU SUBMISSION TO AER FEBRUARY 2015 RAISING CONCERNS ABOUT PUBLIC SAFETY AND BUSHFIRES: p11, THE COST OF SAFETY

Tathra fires: Government and power regulator may have questions to answer on network funding cuts

Paul Lister - Thursday, March 22, 2018

The NSW RFS preliminary investigation into the Tathra bushfires is expected to be released today and if, as anticipated, the NSW Government owned Essential Energy is identified as a possible ignition source the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and NSW Government will have serious questions to answer following massive power line maintenance funding cuts.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) today called on the Australian Energy Regulator and NSW Government to explain massive maintenance funding cuts which the union believes has the potential to impact on public safety across NSW.

“If, as anticipated, the initial report by the RFS finds Essential Energy assets played a part in starting the Tathra fire, the Australian Energy Regulator and the State Government as the owners of Essential Energy have a moral oibligation to explain how their massive maintenance funding cuts may be placing the public at serious risk.” said Justin Page ETU NSW Assistant Secretary.

“The NSW Government has been focused on cutting costs at Essential Energy including slashing maintenance and capital works expenditure while at the same time maximising profit,”

“The NSW Government as owner of this aging and complex network and the Australian Energy Regulator should be focused on safety and reliability ahead of cost cutting which is not currently the case leading to potential impacts on network reliability and public safety.” said Mr Page

“If electricity infrastructure is identified as a possible ignition source we believe the upcoming Keelty Inquiry into the disaster at Tathra must look at these significant and underlying structural issues given their potential to impact on public safety.”

“Our thoughts are with the people of Tathra that have been impacted by this tragic event and we believe they deserve answers if today’s RFS report finds that electricity infrastructure was the ignition source of this fire."

In its own documents Essential Energy admits that it has shifted from an “Asset Maintenance” to an “Asset management” methodology while over the past seven years Essential Energy has sacked 1,700 employees representing almost 40% of its workforce.

Essential Energy has also massively underspent on it’s operating expenditure budget to the tune of $129 million in 217 and they have slashed capital expenditure by 38% since 2012 as a result of the Australian Energy Regulator limiting how much the company can spend.

Conversely, profit, net profit and distributions to the state Government have grown significantly in recent years.

“These numbers paint a compelling picture; the Regulator, the business and the NSW Government have combined to create a situation where the workforce has been cut to the bone and maintenance and safety work which any reasonable people would consider critical has also been cut back.”

Dubbo: Troy Grant must intervene to save jobs and services following revelation of Essential Energy closure plan

Paul Lister - Monday, February 19, 2018

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.”

Ombudsman reveals leap in complaints from NSW consumers as power prices surge and service levels drop

Paul Lister - Thursday, February 15, 2018

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.”

Industrial action postponed at nation’s largest electricity distributor after conditional in-principle agreement reached

Paul Lister - Thursday, February 01, 2018

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.”