ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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Unsustainable NSW Budget propped up by one-off power privatisation windfall

Paul Lister - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The NSW Government has handed down an unsustainable Budget reliant on volatile income streams that will undermine the State’s economic position in the medium to long-term, the Electrical Trades Union has warned.

NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian has relied on one-off cash injections from electricity network privatisation and a stream of volatile stamp duty income from an unprecedented housing bubble to deliver a modest budget surplus, rather than secure sustainable long term income sources.

The union said that without the sale of electricity transmission company TransGrid, the Budget would have been in deficit to the tune of $7 billion, while Treasury will miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars in future tax and dividends the company previously generated.

“Prior to the 2015 election, our union warned people about the negative fiscal impact caused by privatising income generating assets,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“It was a concern that was shared by many others in the community, including merchant bank UBS that issued a warning that privatising the state’s electricity networks would be bad for the state budget in the medium to long term.

“Today’s budget confirms these fears, with the one off cash injection from the sale of TransGrid propping up otherwise ailing state finances.

“If you remove the one-off sugar hit from the privatisation of the electricity transmission network, todays budget tells a very different story: one of revenue short-falls, deficit and poor economic management.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals are relying on voodoo economics to hide their ongoing failure to act on creating sustainable long term revenue streams to fund our state’s future needs.”

The ETU challenged both the NSW Government and Opposition to rule out further privatisation of the remaining publicly owned electricity assets.

“The government and opposition cannot rely on unsustainable one off cash grabs in the future delivered through the privatisation of essential services.”

“Today’s budget is a clear example that privatising income generating assets for a one-off cash injection is not the silver bullet to solving the state's long term infrastructure and financial challenges,” Mr Butler said.

“We are demanding the Premier and NSW Opposition Leader rule out further privatisation of the remaining publicly owned electricity networks, including regional electricity provider Essential Energy and the remaining 50 per cent of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.

“It is disappointing to see that we were right when we said privatisation was bad economic policy, and it is now up to the NSW Government to correct its mistake by halting the sale of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy and ruling out any further privatisation of the remaining publicly owned electricity assets.”

Essential Energy management suffers crushing defeat as workers overwhelmingly reject proposed agreement

Paul Lister - Friday, June 10, 2016

Essential Energy management have suffered a crushing defeat after their proposed workplace agreement, which would have resulted in cuts to real wages and massive regional job losses, was overwhelmingly rejected by 87 per cent of their workforce.

The online ballot, initiated by management and carried out by Elections Australia, saw 2697 eligible Essential Energy employees vote, with 87 per cent — or 2347 workers — rejecting the proposal. Just 350 staff, or less than 13 per cent, were in support of the agreement.

The Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union, and Professional Australia, which represent Essential Energy employees, had urged members to vote against the management agreement, warning that it would lead to hundreds of forced job cuts across regional NSW and prevent the independent umpire from deciding the outcome.

After 18-months of failed negotiations, and a steadfast refusal by the company to allow the industrial umpire to intervene, Essential Energy management have now run out of alternatives and will be forced to accept the arbitrated decision of the Fair Work Commission.

Essential Energy’s proposed agreement sought to impose hundreds of forced redundancies, financial penalties for staff who refused to take voluntary redundancies, and bans on redundant employees applying for other jobs with the company for two years. It also provided just a single, 2.5 per cent pay increase, while cutting other conditions and entitlements.

“This week, Essential Energy employees have sent an unprecedented message,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“They will not accept massive regional job cuts, they will not accept cuts to their real wages, and they will certainly not accept the bullying behaviour of a management team who have simply refused to consider the needs of the workforce during 18 months of negotiations.

“This vote leaves the company with no choice but to finally accept the decision of the independent industrial umpire, which will hear the details of our arguments and impose a binding outcome that will provide certainty for Essential Energy workers and the communities they serve.”

USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said the vote showed the resolve of Essential Energy workers had only grown in the face of unprecedented attacks on their jobs and employment conditions.

“For 18 months, Essential Energy management have been using every avenue available to them to try to force through a new workplace agreement that would allow them to forcibly cut hundreds of regional jobs and leave remaining staff financially worse off,” Mr Kelly said.

“There is no doubt in our minds that this unprecedented anti-worker agenda was being driven by the Baird Government — which is the only explanation for the total silence of local Liberal and National Party MPs about the threat of massive job cuts in their local communities.

“The power has now been taken out of management’s hands, with the independent industrial umpire finally able to hear all sides of the argument and make a final decision to bring this dispute to an end.”

Essential Energy workers urged to vote no to management plan for massive regional job losses

Paul Lister - Friday, June 03, 2016

Workers at Essential Energy have been urged to “vote no” in a ballot for a new workplace agreement, with unions accusing management at the NSW Government-owned electricity distributor of trying to avoid the matter being determined by the independent industrial umpire.
 
Unions have warned that the management-initiated ballot, if successful, would result in a cut to real wages and massive regional job losses. The electronic voting process commences from tomorrow, Saturday 4 June, and closes at 5pm on Thursday 9 June.
 
The management proposal offers a single 2.5 per cent pay increase over three years in return for workers agreeing to allow potentially unlimited forced redundancies, along with cuts to employment conditions, reduced consultation over future changes, and cuts to take home pay.
 
The Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union and Professional Australia, which represent Essential Energy employees, said the ballot was a last ditch effort by management to avoid having the Fair Work Commission determine the outcome of the long running dispute.
 
“Last week, the Fair Work Commission triggered a 21-day bargaining period that will be followed by automatic arbitration if no agreement is reached between the company and its employees,” ETU secretary Steve Butler.
 
“That decision was welcomed by unions as it potentially takes the decision making process out of management’s hands, allowing for independent assessment of the case by the industrial umpire which would then hand down a binding decision.
 
“After refusing to budge for 18 months, management has decided to have one final crack at getting their anti-worker agenda through in the form of this management initiated ballot.”
 
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said power industry unions were urging workers to make sure they vote over the coming days, ensuring a clear rejection of this attempt to cut jobs and employment conditions.
 
“We are urging our members to make sure that they vote, that they vote no, and that they encourage their colleagues to do the same,” Mr Kelly said.
 
“We believe it is in the interest of Essential Energy workers to overwhelmingly reject this offer and instead allow the independent umpire to decide the outcome through arbitration.
 
“In 18 months of negotiations, Essential Energy management have refused to budge on their determination to slash hundreds of regional jobs and cut conditions that were fought for and won by previous generations.
 
“Essential Energy management, at the bidding of their masters in the Baird Government, continue to push for a workplace arrangement that will allow them to slash regional jobs and cut the quality of services available to power consumers.”
 
Background information regarding Essential Energy ballot:
 
Essential Energy management have initiated a ballot on a proposed workplace agreement which is opposed by power industry unions.
 
The ballot, which runs from Saturday 4 June until Thursday 9 June, is being run by Elections Australia Pty Ltd. Essential Energy employees will be emailed a code which they can then use to vote at www.myvote.com.au.
 
Changes to existing employment conditions in the proposed management agreement include:

  • Implementation of forced redundancies, with 250 people per year to be forcibly sacked on top of any voluntary redundancies. From 1 July 2018 there would be no cap on the number of forced redundancies;
  • Financial penalties for workers who are made forcibly redundant after refusing to accept a voluntary redundancy. Additional severance and early acceptance payments of up to 28 weeks pay available to workers who elect to take an early voluntary redundancy offer. If an employee does not choose to accept the early voluntary redundancy offer, they enter a 26-week retention period after which their employment is terminated and a lower severance payment provided;
  • Any employee who is made redundant is banned from being re-employed in an alternate position at the company for a period of 2 years;
  • The three year agreement only provides workers with a single, 2.5 per cent pay increase. This is less than inflation and amounts to a cut in real wages;
  • Cuts to conditions and entitlements will substantially reduce the take-home pay. Over the life of the agreement, many workers will miss out on thousands of dollars in entitlements;
  • Changes to consultation clauses will allow the company to proceed with major changes after a 28 day process. These major changes — such as replacing employees with contractors — are able to proceed after that four-week period regardless of the views of employees;
  • Removal of the “status quo” provision which currently ensures existing arrangements are maintained while a dispute is resolved; and
  • Minimum payment for being recalled to work outside of rostered hours, such as during storms or other major outages, halved from four hours to two hours.

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