ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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Power companies spend almost $5 million to attack workers

- Monday, August 03, 2015
Disclosures by NSW Government-owned electricity network companies have revealed almost five million dollars was spent in just four years to hire external law firms and private investigators to attack their workforces over disciplinary and industrial matters.

Documents released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act revealed Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid spent $4,604,703 on external legal services between 2010 and 2014.

An additional $223,832 was spent on private investigators in 2014, with Essential Energy revealing that more than 90 per cent of their spending on these services involved workers being investigated for “alleged non-compliances” with the company’s code of conduct.

The GIPA documents showed Ausgrid had spent $1,276,013 on industrial matters, $181,673 on disciplinary matters, and $40,569.20 on private investigators. Essential Energy paid $1,457,824 for industrial matters, $21,398 for disciplinary, and $67,847 for private investigators. And Endeavour Energy reported $1,420,000 for industrial matters, $150,000 for disciplinary matters, and $48,149 for private investigators.

Representative from the Electrical Trades Union and the United Services Union said it was outrageous that millions of dollars in public money, that came directly from consumers, had been spent by the management teams at the four public companies to attack their own workforces.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler also highlighted the vast difference between the amount spent by the four companies, with those under the control of Networks NSW chief executive Vince Graham spending on average nine times as much to attack workers and unions.

“Networks NSW have been crying poor in recent months, announcing that 2,800 jobs at Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy need to be slashed,” Mr Butler said.

“What they haven’t revealed is that they were able to find more than a million dollars a year to spend on external law firms and private investigators solely to attack the hard working men and women who maintain our electricity network and respond during natural disasters.

“Transgrid, who announced no job losses following the determination of the Australian Energy Regulator, has also been shown to have far more modest spending habits compared to the remaining three electricity network companies who are currently slashing jobs.”

United Services Union energy manager Scott McNamara said it was particularly concerning to discover that in addition to the large amounts spent attacking workers and their conditions, private investigators had been recruited to spy on employees without any disclosure.

“Last year alone, nearly a quarter of a million dollars in public money was handed over to private investigators so they would spy on the hard-working employees of these four companies,” Mr McNamara said.

“The fact that such large sums were involved, and the spending was spread across all four companies, shows this approach has become common practice among management teams at war with their own staff.

“The NSW Government tries to blame workers for electricity prices, but what they don’t tell consumers is that millions of dollars from their power bills have been poured into the pockets of large law firms and private investigators.

“This kind of behaviour may be commonplace in communist North Korea, but it is not acceptable in NSW, where committed workers dedicate their working lives to serving the public by ensuring they have a safe, reliable and affordable electricity supply.”