Workers at electricity network companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have overwhelmingly voted in support of industrial action, including possible work stoppages and strikes, as they fight for improved job security provisions in light of Premier Mike Baird’s privatisation plans.
In a postal ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, 95.8 per cent of Ausgrid staff and 86.4 per cent of Endeavour staff voted in support of work stoppages.
The vote allows workers at both businesses to take a range of lawful industrial actions, including strikes, bans on non-emergency call outs and refusals to disconnect customers who don’t pay bills. The Fair Work Commission requires seven days notice be given before each specific form of industrial action occurs.
Workers were also asked to vote on various forms of industrial action that they would support taking.
At Ausgrid, 87.5 per cent support strikes — including indefinite stoppages — while 96.1 per cent endorsed work bans, 96.1 per cent agreed to changed work practices, and 94.8 per cent supported the distribution of union campaign material.
At Endeavour, 76.3 per cent voted for strikes, 90.6 per cent supported work bans, 91 per cent agreed to changed work practices, and 90.4. per cent agreed to distribute union campaign material.
The companies operate and maintain the electricity network in Sydney, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Central Coast, Blue Mountains, parts of the Central West, Southern Highlands and the Illawarra.
The Electrical Trades Union said negotiations had soured after Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy asked staff to accept cuts to working conditions and entitlements that would see reductions to their take home pay.
“Workers are fighting for improved job security provisions in light of the proposed privatisations of both businesses, the protection of existing conditions, and a modest wage increase that keeps them on par with comparable companies interstate,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.
“At a time when the NSW Government is looking to sell the businesses to foreign owners, and have flagged a total of 4,600 job losses across the electricity network, it is understandable that workers are determined to fight for a fair outcome.”
Mr Butler said that while the vote meant workers could now lawfully take a range of actions, it was still possible to avert industrial action.
“On January 23 I wrote to Premier Mike Baird asking for an urgent meeting to resolve this dispute,” he said.
“To this day there has been no response to that offer.
“If the NSW Government refuses to sit down to discuss the issues, what option is left for workers but to escalate the matter?
“There is still time to avert potential industrial action, but it requires a genuine commitment to resolving the core issues faced by power workers.
“We simply can’t accept a situation where workers are left with inadequate job protections, the loss of conditions, or cuts to their wages and entitlements.
“It seems the Liberal and National parties want to drive down wages and conditions at these businesses to maximise the amount of money they will receive from their electricity privatisation plans.”