Power workers that operate the electricity network across 95 per cent of NSW will hold unprecedented strike action from Monday 23 May, walking off the job in an attempt to bring an end to a long-running industrial dispute with management at publicly-owned Essential Energy.
For the first time since protected industrial action began earlier this year, all members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) will take part, with more than 120 workplaces, depots and control rooms impacted by the stoppage. Unlike previous stoppages, the union will not provide a skeleton staff during the stop work period meaning management will need to resolve this dispute or make alternative arrangements.
The ETU formally served notice of the protected industrial action yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 11 May), which will consist of twenty consecutive four hour stoppages — commencing at 10pm on Monday 23 May and concluding at 6am on Friday 27 May.
ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said workers had endorsed the major escalation of industrial action in a last-ditch attempt to resolve the dispute over a new workplace agreement, which has now dragged on for more than 18 months.
“For 18 months, Essential Energy management have refused to come to an agreement, have rejected a range of generous concessions from the union, have refused to allow the industrial umpire to intervene, have put forward a proposal that would see the immediate slashing of 800 regional jobs, and have launched unprecedented legal action to cut our members’ pay and conditions,” Mr Butler said.
“That sort of aggressive, autocratic management — where workers are told they have no choice but to accept massive cuts to jobs, services, pay, and conditions — has no place in a modern Australian workplace and is completely unacceptable to our members.
“Rather than allow this dispute to continue to drag on for months or even years, union members have decided to bring it to a head with an unprecedented escalation of strike action that will see them walk out of more than 120 workplaces for a total of 80 hours later this month.
“Unlike the 24 hour strike held yesterday, this future stoppage is the first time that the union will not be providing a skeleton staff during the work stoppage.
“Unfortunately, this means the stoppage may impact on electricity services for some in the community but customers can blame management and the NSW Government for their lack of will to resolve this matter.
“The NSW Government has sat on their hands long enough. They can stop this strike action, but only by demanding their management team at Essential Energy return to the negotiating table and agree to abide by the decisions of the industrial umpire, the Fair Work Commission.
“For the sake of Essential Energy’s loyal workforce, and the 800,000 customers they serve, the Baird Government can no longer remain silent while their management team attempts to slash regional jobs and services.”