Fair Work Commission orders Essential Energy to reverse notice telling workers not to come in on Monday
Posted on 16-10-2015
Regional employees put in limbo earlier this week after Essential Energy management told them to no longer come to work have had a major legal win, with the Fair Work Commission ordering the company to reverse the decision and find meaningful work for the staff.
The Electrical Trade Union and United Services Union, which represent employees at the electricity network company, launched an urgent dispute before the industrial umpire, arguing the company had breached their legal obligations.
FWC senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger this afternoon issued an interim decision (see over page), ordering an immediate return to the status quo prior to the workers being told earlier this week that they were not to come to work from Monday.
The commission ordered that the employees, which the company described as “redeployees in unfunded positions”, be contacted no later than 3.15pm today and told that the direction to no longer come to work had been revoked.
It also ordered Essential Energy to provide “meaningful work placement” for the workers, as defined in the company’s own Management of Surplus Employees Policy.
The unions said the decision had vindicated their advice to workers that the company’s notice was a breach of the existing workplace agreement and should be ignored.
“This afternoon, the industrial umpire has ordered Essential Energy to immediately reverse its directive to these workers and advise them that they can continue to come to work and will be provided with meaningful work,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.
“Our position — that Essential Energy had breached the workplace agreement and their own redeployment policy — has been vindicated.
“It is outrageous that a major employer, completely owned by the people of NSW, would treat its workforce in such a shameful manner.”
“Today’s decision by the industrial umpire is not only a win for essential energy workers but a win for all regional communities right across NSW.”
“We would now like to see local communities rally behind these workers and help fight to protect these valuable regional jobs.”
USU energy manager Scott McNamara said that the fight wasn’t over, but that the electricity sector unions would continue to stand up against Essential Energy’s attacks on regional workers.
“While these interim orders are a great first step, and provide legal certainty to our members when they turn up to work next Monday, the battle is far from over,” he said.
“We are still awaiting a decision of the Fair Work Commission — expected in the coming weeks — about whether Essential Energy will be able to introduce a policy allowing them to sack workers using forced redundancies.”
Media comment: Steve Butler 0414 877 679
Further information: Paul Lister 0408 231 858