Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Ausgrid Update - 20 September

Paul Lister - Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dear Colleague,

Agreement negotiations

Ausgrid CEO Trevor Armstrong has made contact with the ETU and wishes to revive Agreement negotiations in the wake of the stalled privatization of Ausgrid. A meeting of the negotiating committee will take place on Wednesday 28th September to discuss the matter. As already reported, Ausgrid have previously rejected the selfless offer made by members for a wage freeze in return for no forced redundancies. It will be interesting to see what Ausgrid’s position is in the wake of the Foreign Investment Review Board decision not to sell Ausgrid to Chinese interests. Whatever Ausgrid’s position, we will not be in the business of undermining the 5 year job guarantees that were part of the accepted amendments moved by upper house MLC Fred Nile which ultimately became part of the legislation which permitted the selloff. The intention of those guarantees has been made abundantly clear by Fred Nile who has vowed to ensure that they are honored by the government. I will update you after the meeting.

 

Phase 2 Redeployment

Employees in the Hunter and Ourimbah regions are currently being subjected to Ausgrid’s process of determining who ends up as redeployees and who has a job. Sydney based employees will go through the same process in October. I am told managers are going around stating to employees that the whole thing was endorsed by the union and that people should just go along with it. This is typical Ausgrid spin of course. The ETU does not endorse Ausgrid destroying jobs. We fundamentally disagree with and fought against a proposition which says that Ausgrid needs to make people surplus when there is plenty of work to be done. Ultimately however, we have to try and get the best out of the process that we can for members and so we were heavily involved in the process of consultation on how it would be implemented. As a result of that consultation the assessment is much more weighted towards actual skills and capabilities than Ausgrid were originally proposing and most importantly has a review and appeals mechanism which members should utilize if they feel they have been unfairly treated. Please contact your workplace delegate or myself if you wish to pursue such matters.

 

Disciplinary Procedures

I continue to be involved in disciplinary processes with members who, without representation, attend a so called “informal fact finding” interview. The statements made at these interviews are then subsequently used against the member in dishing out punishment in a formal disciplinary process. I reiterate to all members the importance of not attending any interviews, whether informal or not, without representation from at least a workplace ETU delegate. Ausgrid will use these interviews against you as part of their final decision making process and so you must always have representation at these interviews.

In Unity
Mark Buttigieg
markb@etunsw.asn.au / 0417 208 447

Essential Energy Arbitration Final Submissions.

Paul Lister - Friday, September 16, 2016

The Essential Energy arbitration matter returned to the Fair Work Commission today for final submissions from all parties. Essentially there have been no new developments today with both sides reiterating their position on the various matters subject to arbitration.

Some of the items raised today included Essential Energy tabling a proposed clause that would permit the Fair Work Commission to decide if status quo should apply for each individual dispute in the future. Under this proposal the union would have to place the company into dispute and may seek status quo by making an application to the Fair Work Commission who would determine if status quo should apply and for what period. This proposal was raised in conjunction with matters relating to the ability to lodge disputes regarding the full employee/employer relationship and the ability for either party to pursue arbitration if desired.

The combined unions, following advice from our legal team, agree that the above provision is a better outcome than the total loss of status quo, a position that we believe the Fair Work Commission may be leaning towards if not agreed between the parties.

Essential also submitted that they require involuntary redundancy moving forward under either a capped or uncapped model. Under the capped model the company proposed that any voluntary redundancy should not count towards the forced redundancy cap.

THE COMBINED UNIONS REITERATED THAT OUR POSITION HAS NOT CHANGED – WE REMAIN OPPOSED TO ANY PROVISION FOR FORCED REDUNDANCY. The unions legal team further argued that should the Full Bench adopt a capped involuntary redundancy approach, that VR for identified employees/positions should be counted under the cap provision to provide effect to the cap. Without this approach a so called capped approach will essentially become open slather redundancy program.

The contracting out clause was also discussed at length with the company arguing that a dedicated contracting out clause is not required as they believe the standard consultation clause should apply to any contracting out proposal. The unions countered these arguments by highlighting the unique nature and impact that contracting out has on internal positions and work.

It is unlikely that a decision will be handed down by the Full Bench today, however once this occurs and once we have a full understanding of the decision we will advise all members of the outcome. In the meantime, Justin Page has taken over from Neville Betts in the role of coordinating the ETU at Essential Energy and Justin’s can be contacted on justinp@etunsw.asn.au or 0414 877 301.

Yours in unity
Steve Butler
Secretary.

Essential Energy fined $300,000 over death of worker: Union calls for senior managers to be held accountable

Paul Lister - Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Electrical Trades Union is demanding senior management at publicly-owned electricity network company Essential Energy be held personally accountable for work practices they oversaw that resulted in the preventable death of 47-year-old father Trevor Tooze in 2013.

The call comes as the company was fined $300,000 over the incident, with the court finding the company placed a desire to maintain electricity supplies ahead of safety when workers were told to operate in close proximity to a live 11,000 volt cable, resulting in the preventable death.

An experienced electrical worker, Mr Tooze was one of six workers replacing several kilometres of powerlines on Monday 2 September 2013 along Seal Rocks Road, near Bulahdelah on the NSW mid-North Coast.

At approximately 10.25am, while receiving a copper cable that was being lowered to the ground, Mr Tooze was electrocuted when the cable came into contact with the operational high voltage line.

His colleagues performed CPR, but due to the remoteness of the worksite it took more than half an hour for help to arrive. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

“Trevor’s family, his workmates, and the community deserve to know which senior executive was responsible for prioritising the electricity supply over workers lives on that tragic day,” ETU deputy secretary Dave McKinley said.

“While the $300,000 fine is a welcome recognition that Essential Energy did the wrong thing, it is consumers who will end up paying it, so it provides little deterrent for unsafe practices.

“We believe the senior executives who were responsible for this policy, who knowingly placed workers in danger for the sake of maintaining electricity services, must be held personally responsible.

“Heads should roll, including Deputy Chief Executive Officer Gary Humphreys who held overall responsibility at the time, to send a message that the community has zero tolerance for the lives of working people being put at risk for the sake of convenience or profits.”

Mr McKinley said Mr Tooze’s death had resulted in changes at the company, including the rollout of almost 200 portable defibrillators following a 12-month union campaign.

“A portable defibrillator would have allowed Trevor to receive treatment within minutes, which would have increased his chances of survival,” he said.

“The ETU campaigned for this change in the hope that it could prevent similar tragedies in future, and there are now defibrillators taken on the road by crews across rural and regional NSW as they carry out maintenance and repair work on the electricity poles and wires.”

Click here to read the SafeWork NSW media release. 

Click here to read a copy of the Essential Energy incident report.

Essential Energy Update - Workplace Incident at Endeavour Energy

Paul Lister - Friday, September 09, 2016

On Monday at Endeavour Energy two of our colleagues were injured, one of them very seriously in an electrical accident at Aird. The accident occurred during an attempted disconnection of a mobile generator at a kiosk type substation. Initial enquiries indicate that the accident relates to the process involved in connecting and disconnecting generators on to LIVE Low Voltage Boards at substations. The ETU immediately placed a blanket ban on all Live L.V. Board connections of mobile generators and Endeavour Energy, to their credit, put out a Safety Alert which had the same effect. Ausgrid has followed suit and both Safety Alerts are attached for your information.

I have tried unsuccessfully to discuss this incident with Essential.

Given there may be similar circumstances under which such connections take place at Essential, the ETU is placing a blanket ban on all connection and disconnection of mobile generators to LIVE Low Voltage boards in Essential. Until further notice, any such procedures must only be carried out with the Low Voltage Board de-energised – no exceptions. All members are expected to observe this important safety precaution.

In the meantime, I speak for all members and say that our thoughts and well wishes go out to our injured colleagues and we hope they make a full and speedy recovery. We will keep you informed of developments as they occur. In the meantime, if you have any questions please call.
 
Regards
     
Justin Page
0414877301
justinp@etunsw.asn.au

ETU Bans Live Conncetion/Disconnection of Generators Following Incident

Paul Lister - Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Dear Members,

On Monday two of our colleagues at Endeavour Energy were injured, one of them very seriously in an electrical accident at Aird. The accident occurred during an attempted disconnection of a mobile generator at a kiosk type substation. Initial enquiries indicate that the accident relates to the process involved in connecting and disconnecting generators on to LIVE Low Voltage Boards at substations. The ETU immediately placed a blanket ban on all Live L.V. Board connections of mobile generators and Endeavour Energy, to their credit, put out a Safety Alert which had the same effect. I have attached Endeavour’s safety alert for your information.

Yesterday Ausgrid Delegate Graeme Paterson and I met with Ausgrid management. Given that there are similar circumstances under which such connections take place on the Ausgrid network, and given the seriousness of the incident we insisted that Ausgrid needed to release a similar safety alert. Ausgrid indicated to us that that they would be putting out their own safety alert to similar effect. That Safety Alert was this afternoon released. Unfortunately, and against the counsel of the ETU the alert in our view is too ambiguous and vague.

As a result the ETU is placing a blanket ban on all connection and disconnection of mobile generators to LIVE Low Voltage boards. Until further notice, any such procedures must only be carried out with the Low Voltage Board de-energised – no exceptions.  All members are expected to observe this important safety precaution.

In the meantime I speak for all members and say that our thoughts and well wishes go out to our injured colleagues and we hope they make a full and speedy recovery. At this time all members are reminded to always take the most conservative approach when it comes to safety – if in doubt, don’t do it until there is no doubt.

We will keep you informed of developments as they occur. In the meantime if you have any questions please call either myself or Anthony O’Sullivan (acting Endeavour Organiser) on the contact details below.

In Unity,
 
MARK BUTTIGIEG 
0417 208 447 / markb@etunsw.asn.au

ANTHONY O’SULLIVAN
0467 565 902 / anthonyo@etunsw.asn.au

Endeavour Energy Incident Update

Paul Lister - Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Yesterday two of our colleagues from Endeavour Energy were injured, one of them very seriously in an electrical accident at Aird. The accident occurred during an attempted disconnection of a mobile generator at a kiosk type substation. Initial enquiries indicate that the accident relates to the process involved in connecting and disconnecting generators on to LIVE Low Voltage Boards at substations.

This is an extremely serious safety matter and as a result of the accident the ETU is placing a blanket ban on all connection and disconnection of mobile generators to LIVE Low Voltage boards. Until further notice, any such procedures must only be carried out with the Low Voltage Board de-energised – no exceptions.  All members are expected to observe this important safety precaution.

The ETU has been in discussions with Endeavour Energy management who have advised that the company will be putting out a safety alert to similar effect.

In the meantime I speak for all members and say that our thoughts and well wishes go out to our injured colleagues and we hope they make a full and speedy recovery. At this time all members are reminded to always take the most conservative approach when it comes to safety – if in doubt, don’t do it until there is no doubt.

We will keep you informed of developments as they occur. In the meantime if you have any questions please call either myself of Anthony O’Sullivan (acting for Brad Currey) on the contact details below.

In Unity,
 
MARK BUTTIGIEG   
0417 208 447 / markb@etunsw.asn.au

ANTHONY O’SULLIVAN
0467 565 902 / anthonyo@etunsw.asn.au

Essential Energy Arbitration Update – Wednesday 1 September

Paul Lister - Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Essential Energy arbitration sat all day last Friday with attention focused on ETU witnesses. Dr Lynn Chester continued in the witness box on Friday morning with the Essential Energy lawyers cross examining her evidence. Dr Chester, an expert on the Australian electricity sector, focused on issues around the AER.

After lunch ETU Secretary, Steve Butler, was called to give evidence. Steve took a strong position outlining the brutal nature of the staff reductions and the real life impact this has had and continues to have on workers, their families and the community.

It would be fair to say that Essential Energy was not happy with this reality being presented to the Full Bench with constant objections forth coming from Essential Energy lawyers. Most of these objections were rejected as the Full Bench was interested to hear about the impact on workers and how they were being treated by the company.

Steve’s evidence also included information outlining that management attacks on workers are supported by the NSW Government.

During the course of delivering evidence Steve provided the Full Bench with an update on how the combined unions had repeatedly attempted to secure an agreement over a long negation period, Steve also provided an outline of where negotiations were up to immediately prior to the arbitration.

Essential Energy objected to this evidence being provided on grounds of confidentiality however the Full Bench were keen to understand where the bargaining had stalled and why.

Essential Energy lawyers also cross examined Steve Butler arguing that any workers made redundant would not be worse off because they would get a job with a contractor. In what the union can only describe as being out of touch the Essential Energy lawyers attempted to progress arguments that there has been an increase in the amount of work around the installation of solar panels and that workers made redundant from Essential Energy could get a job in this sector. These arguments highlighted the lack of understanding of our industry.

Throughout the day there were heated exchanges but the ETU witnesses and our skilled legal team stood their ground by standing up and advocating for members. There is no doubt that your bosses would have preferred to have been in that court room arguing for the cancellation of your agreement rather than an arbitrated agreement outcome, their dissatisfaction was clear throughout the day as the ETU provided important and compelling evidence.

The matter will return to the Fair Work Commission on 16 September for final submissions before the Full Bench will deliberate before handing down a binding decision.