ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

For media enquiries please contact George Houssos on 0418 655 682 or Tim Vollmer on 0404 273 313

ETU calls for defibrillator on every truck to save lives

- Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The NSW Government has been urged to facilitate a state-wide roll out of defibrillators across the publicly-owned electricity network following several preventable deaths and near-misses in recent years.

The Electrical Trades Union has met with NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher to present him with detailed, independent research that has found portable defibrillators provide an effective, affordable, reliable opportunity to prevent accidental deaths among the thousands of workers who carry out dangerous maintenance and repair work, often on live wires.

The union has also asked the Minister to convene an industry taskforce to develop a consistent approach to the roll out of defibrillators in all four publicly-owned companies in the electricity sector.

ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said the campaign had been given greater urgency following the death of electrical worker Trevor Tooze on September 2, while workin  g on the mid-North Coast.

“Trevor was an experienced Essential Energy employee, working on an upgrade of high-voltage power lines, when an electric shock stopped his heart,” Mr Butler said.

“His colleagues performed CPR until an ambulance arrived, but because of the remoteness of the work site it took more than half an hour for help to get there.

“The first thing the paramedics did was place a defibrillator on him, but unfortunately it had been too long, and they were unable to resuscitate him.

“A portable defibrillator on his work truck would have allowed him to receive treatment within minutes, which the expert research says would have greatly increased his chances of survival.”

Mr Butler said while some companies are trialling a small number of defibrillators in the field, the ETU is campaigning for a broader roll out and a more consistent approach across the entire sector.

“Our industry has seen several preventable workplace deaths from cardiac arrest in recent years, with the remote nature of much of our work drastically reducing the chances of survival,” he said.

“Because we are often working on live power lines, including high voltage cables, workers in our industry are at substantially higher risk than most people in the Australian community.

“Electricity is the sixth biggest workplace killer in Australia, and even a small shock can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

“But unlike other workplace accidents, quick action and access to a portable defibrillator provides the chance to prevent these deaths, with colleagues actually able to bring a co-worker back to life.

“With each machine costing as little as $3000 to install, we believe it is a tiny price to pay to potentially save a life.”

The ETU commissioned independent, detailed research, which found that installing defibrillators on electricity network trucks is not only practical and affordable, it offers the potential to reduce deaths in the electricity industry.

“We know that defibrillators have the potential to save lives, which is why we are calling for them to be installed on each and every work truck across the network,” Mr Butler said.

“Most importantly, we want a consistent approach across the sector, so all workers have additional protection from the danger of electric shock, not just those at certain companies.”

A full copy of the independent report commissioned by the ETU can be downloaded here.

Electricity network brings home the bacon for NSW taxpayers

- Monday, November 04, 2013

The release of the NSW Auditor General’s report on the NSW electricity sector has revealed the ongoing growth in the massive dividends the people of New South Wales receive from the publicly owned electricity network businesses, according to the Electrical Trades Union.

The Auditor General’s report identified dividends from the four publicly-owned network businesses — Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid — had grown to almost a billion dollars last year, before other revenue such as tax and interest paid to the NSW Government was taken into account.

“The NSW Auditor General’s report demonstrates that the publicly owned electricity networks remain an extremely valuable public asset that benefits the people of NSW and should not be privatised,” ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said.

“In the past twelve months, income from the NSW electricity networks is likely to exceed $2.5 billion in total government revenue, once dividends, tax equivalents and government interest are taken into account.

“Rather than go into the p  ockets of a potential foreign owner as profit, this money is currently flowing into government coffers to help fund public services such as our hospitals, schools and roads.

“This is a great outcome for the people of NSW, especially as independent polling has previously shown the public overwhelmingly do not want to see our electricity network sold off.”

Mr Butler said the Auditor General’s report highlighted the economic weakness of the NSW Treasurer’s support for privatisation.

“On one hand we have Treasurer Mike Baird, taking every opportunity to talk up privatising the NSW electricity network, while on the other hand he is using the financial windfall from these companies to claim the budget is back in the black,” Mr Butler said.

“It’s hypocrisy at its best.

“One thing is crystal-clear from the NSW Auditor General’s report, and that is the NSW electricity businesses continue to make a valuable contribution to the bottom line of the state.

“The quicker the O’Farrell Government understands the value of these assets and commits to public ownership and operation the better off NSW residents will be.”

Higher power prices as NSW electricity meters privatised

- Thursday, July 18, 2013

Power industry unions have slammed a NSW Government’s decision to privatise the function of electricity metering, saying the policy will drive up prices and add yet another level of complexity to an already confusing sector.

The United Services Union and Electrical Trades Union said the decision would also lead to higher prices, with the profitable metering arms of the electricity distributors currently providing income that allows electricity prices to be kept lower for consumers.

They also attacked the announcement as a political backflip, saying it had come just months after Premier Barry O’Farrell pledged that the NSW Government would seek an electoral mandate before selling electricity network assets.

The unions are considering lodging a dispute with Fair Work Australia over the planned sale of the electricity meter arms of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.

United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said the decision to slice off profitable parts of the electricity network for sale to the private sector was not only a political backflip, it was short-sighted and would lead to increasing prices for customers.

“The NSW Government has no mandate to cut out parts of the electricity network and sell them off to private operators,” Mr Kelly said.

“This is a clear backflip on promises Mr O’Farrell has repeatedly made to the people of NSW that he would not sell the poles and wires electricity business without seeking a political mandate.

“He is acting without any accountability, either to the Parliament or the people.”

ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said experiences from around Australia confirmed that consumers would be the big losers if the sale was allowed to go ahead.

“Every time the government sells off a part of the electricity sector it adds yet another private company to the supply chain that is looking to make profits for their shareholders and not deliver a service at the lowest possible price to the public,” said Mr Butler.
“It was only two weeks ago that the former head of the electricity network in South Australia, a state that has already privatised their electricity assets, said that South Australian residents had the highest electricity prices in Australia as a direct result of privatisation and the complexity of the sector.

“South Australia has among the highest electricity prices in the world and the same thing will happen in NSW if the O’Farrell Government is allowed to get away with privatising further elements of this essential public service.

“Today’s announcement has been made without any consultation with the public or those that currently do this work.”

Mr Kelly said the NSW Government appeared to be starting with large industrial customers, but that unions were concerned residential electricity meters would form part of the final sale.

“You can bet your house on the fact that if the NSW Government are pushing to sell off large industrial electricity meters that the next step will be to privatise residential meters, a device that every single house across NSW has,” he said.

“What this will ultimately mean is yet another company will have their hand in the consumers pocket when it comes to electricity prices.”

NSW Government refuse to protect electricity jobs

- Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rural and regional energy sector workers feel justifiably betrayed by the NSW Government after it refused to support legislative amendments that would provide certainty over job numbers as part of a merger of the boards of the state’s three electricity network operators.

The United Services Union and Electrical Trades Union said the O’Farrell Government’s reforms to the electricity network, which sought to save $400 million dollars, had already seen almost 800 jobs lost through natural attrition, with fears of more to come.

A number of amendments that sought to protect existing staffing and service levels in rural and regional areas were rejected by the Liberal and National Parties in the Upper House.

United Services Union energy, utilities and private sector manager Scott McNamara said unions had put forward a series of recommended amendments to the legislation to merge the boards of Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy that would prevent the merged board from:

  • transferring existing jobs away from regional communities;
  • making existing regional positions redundant; and
  • reducing the number of employees at each of the respective electricity distributors.

“These amendments were about trying to protect rural and regional communities throughout NSW that are reliant on the jobs provided by the electricity distributors,” Mr McNamara said.

“The O’Farrell Government showed its true colours yesterday when it formally rejected several amendments from the Opposition and minor parties that would have gone some way to protecting jobs and services in regional communities, but it’s not too late for them to stand up for regional NSW.

“Electricity unions want to make it clear to the O’Farrell Government that essential services like the electricity network are of vital importance to rural and regional communities, and that these areas will most acutely feel any reductions in service delivery and maintenance standards.

“The O’Farrell Government claimed their reforms would save money by reducing duplication of corporate services, standardising IT systems and delivering economies of scale in purchasing, but what they’re doing by refusing to provide job security for staff in regional communities is admit the savings will actually come from job cuts.

“The flow on effects for the broader economies and communities of regional areas impacted by power network job cuts will be massive.”

Electrical Trades Union secretary Steve Butler said the merger of the boards of the three electricity network operators, which has passed through the lower house of NSW Parliament, now meant hundreds of jobs were under threat despite promises made by the Premier.

“Following the government announcement that they would merge the electricity companies the Premier himself flew to Port Macquarie and gave a guarantee to locals that there would be no job losses, a commitment that was repeated by Treasurer Mike Baird only last month,” Mr Butler said.

“It now appears the Government has abandoned this commitment.

“The NSW Government last night had a chance to support regional communities across NSW by backing a sensible amendment to protect jobs in rural centres for at least five years following the merger, but they rejected outright any such protections.

“Instead, Premier Barry O’Farrell and more importantly the National Party has effectively put workers at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy on notice that their jobs are on the chopping block.”

Electricity Network Should Cope With Demand & Heat

- Saturday, January 05, 2013

While the NSW electricity network is expected to cope with the increased demand and extreme heat conditions today the ETU has said that any future reduction in network investment and network reliability standards would mean future extreme heat days could be very different.

ETU Secretary, Steve Butler said that some politicians are pushing to reduce network reliability and network investment that would put undue pressure on the electricity network in future extreme heat occurrences.

“In recent months we have listened to politicians from all major parties say that there should be a reduction in network investment and reliability standards but today is the perfect example why this should not happen.” said Mr Butler.

“NSW residents and business owners expect electricity to be available even on the hottest days of the year and any push to reduce network reliability would be bad for the business community and bad for NSW residents trying to stay cool.

“I challenge those politicians that have recently said we should reduce reliability standards to come out today and repeat those claims. These political leaders need to tell us how they will reduce reliability and what impact that will have on businesses and residents on a day like today.” Mr Butler said.

“Blackouts are inconvenient at the best of times and are sometimes unavoidable but governments have a responsibility to do everything in their power to guarantee the supply of electricity all year round including in extreme weather events such as today.

“I expect that the NSW electricity network will stand up to the demands placed on it today, this will not be without incident but a well maintained and well managed network, which we have in NSW can deliver on a day like this.” said Mr Butler.

“I believe that the government is best positioned to deliver a reliable electricity supply through a well maintained and well managed network and that is why the ETU in NSW is opposed to any form of electricity privatisation that would put future reliability and public safety at risk.

“We have seen in the past that the privately owned electricity networks in Victoria and South Australia continually fail to meet community expectations during extreme weather events.

“The Bushfire Royal Commission found that five of the eleven 2009 Victorian bushfires were caused by lack of safety inspections and network investment, while in South Australia the electricity network struggles to cope during extreme heat resulting in blackouts.” Mr Butler said

“We cannot let this happen in NSW and that is why the ETU will continue to highlight the benefits of public ownership of the NSW electricity assets.”