Workers from publicly-owned electricity network companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy will this afternoon stop work for four hours as part of their fight to have protections against forced redundancy implemented ahead of the NSW Government’s planned power sale.
The industrial action will involve Endeavour Energy employees from Western Sydney, the Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Central West, Southern Highlands, and South Coast, along with Ausgrid workers from parts of Sydney and the Hunter.
The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent electricity workers employed by Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, said it was now more than three months since workplace agreements at both companies expired.
ETU secretary Steve Butler said workers were simply fighting for basic job protections that would prevent a future private owner from forcing out staff against their will.
“The key issue here are job protections and the prevention of forced redundancies, which are a major concern for workers given Mike Baird’s plan to sell a majority stake in both these companies to the private sector,” Mr Butler said.
“Workers also face the looming decision of the Australian Energy Regulator, whose draft pricing determination — if imposed — would see 2,400 jobs cut at Ausgrid and 700 at Endeavour Energy.
“These workers are the people who tirelessly operate, maintain and repair the electricity network, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain, hail or shine.
“All they are asking for is a written commitment that these companies won’t force thousands of workers out of a job once they are sold off to private owners.”
USU energy manager Scott McNamara said workers had already made a range of concessions to try and resolve the dispute, but the NSW Government was refusing to budge.
“Last month workers agreed to a reduced pay claim, complying with the NSW government wages policy of 2.5 per cent,” Mr McNamara said.
“All they asked for in return was the job security provisions that Mike Baird has claimed in the past would be part of his privatisation plan.”
The unions said the industrial action was not expected to impact on the public, with minimum staffing coverage provided during the stoppage, and key positions such as control room staff and emergency services officers not taking part.
“Industrial action is always a last resort, especially when it involves an essential service, but power workers have been left no choice,” Mr McNamara said.
“The refusal to agree to job security provisions by management at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, and the NSW Government, has forced workers at both companies to escalate this dispute to try and force a resolution.
“Mike Baird could resolve this today — halting this industrial action and any future stoppages — by simply delivering the job security provisions he has promised in the past.”
Today’s industrial action will occur across the entire Endeavour Energy service area, along with Ausgrid depots on the Northern Beaches, Eastern Suburbs and Newcastle.
Ausgrid workers in Southern Sydney, the CBD, Central Coast and Singleton will hold a four hour stoppage tomorrow.
Ausgrid staff in the Inner West, Northern Sydney, Upper Hunter, Maitland and Cessnock will take industrial action for four hours on Wednesday 8 April.
Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy began enterprise agreement (EA) negotiations with employees last September and made conditional offers in November which were rejected by delegates in December 2014. Both EAs expired in December.
Ausgrid put a wages offer of between 0 per cent and 2.5 per cent in return for significant trade-offs including cuts to the Electrical Licence Allowance, cuts to long service leave, reduction to overtime, call out and travel time payments and removal of salary maintenance provisions.
An additional offer of 0.4 per cent was made in return for further deep cuts to a range of other allowances and superannuation payments.
A similar offer was made by Endeavour Energy.
The trade-offs required by the two company’s amount to more than the wage offer which is conditional on a number of unknowns and could be 0 per cent.
Acceptance of the company’s offer would result in a significant loss to employees in real terms even if the full wage offer was confirmed.
Employees last month voted to take protected industrial action.