Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

TransGrid management walk away from negotiations, announce non-union EBA

Paul Lister - Friday, December 06, 2013

Members will be aware that negotiations on a new EA commenced in July this year. Over the past four months the negotiating committee comprising employee and union representatives have presented our log of claims.

Some of the union original log of claims included:

  • 9 day fortnight
  • No forced relocation and improved relocation allowance clause
  • Contracting out clause
  • Redundancy, redeployment and salary maintenance
  • Consultation clause
  • Dispute clause
  • On call allowance
  • Skills and training
  • 5% wage increase
  • Allowances

Some of management’s log of claims included:

  • Forced cashing out of leave
  • Scope of the agreement - more individual contracts
  • Overtime - Cut penalty rates on weekends & public holidays
  • Cut sick leave entitlements
  • Restrict the higher duties allowance
  • Absorb super increases
  • Cut allowances
  • And many more cuts!

While negotiations have been slow and tedious there were a number of log items that have either been agreed in principle or withdrawn. Despite this there are also a number of significant items that we have not been able to reach agreement on or the company has refused to negotiate over.

During the last meeting management were asked to reconsider their wages offer of 2.85% in light of reporting that day in the Sydney Morning Herald that the TransGrid management executive team had received pay increases ranging between 14% and 27% or almost ten times what the company was offering to ordinary workers.

The management team indicated that the company would not be increasing their wages offer. The union negotiating team indicated that we would need to talk to members and seek direction on the company’s offer.

The key sticking points at the conclusion of last weeks meeting were:

  • Loss of 9 day fortnight
  • Contracting out Clause
  • Redundancy, relocation, redeployment and salary maintenance
  • Consultation and dispute clauses
  • Cuts to sick leave including changing the number of days without evidence and access while on leave.
  • Higher duties/grade allowance
  • Cuts to annual leave including forcing employees to cash out leave
  • Allowances
  • Wage claim

On Friday 6 December TransGrid wrote to unions advising that the company had decided to withdraw from negotiations and instead proceed to a ballot with a non-union EBA. Any questions may be directed to ETU Assistant Secretary, Paul Sinclair.

Essential EBA Update 5 December

Paul Lister - Thursday, December 05, 2013

After long and arduous negotiations it appears that we have arrived at a point where a new agreement will be presented to Essential Energy members in the first quarter of next year but there are a number of things that must first occur before we get to any ballot.

To recap, members will recall that the employee negotiation team met with Essential Energy management on the 20th of November and agreed in principle on the new agreement. Following this meeting the negotiating team recommended the agreement to a meeting of ETU delegates who overwhelmingly endorsed the proposal.

Gary Humphries wrote to the ETU on the 21" of November confirming the offer from the company discussed the day before. This correspondence outlined a number of clauses that would be included in any new agreement - a copy of recent correspondence between the company and the ETU can be found below including a copy of the draft agreement.

On the 26th of November the ETU wrote to Vince Graham to seek guarantees on the matters of no forced redundancies and for amendments to the redundancy policy. Gary Humphries and Vince Graham responded to this correspondence on the 28th of November and the 3rd of December in which the company proposed changes to the management of surplus employees policy and indicated that the only form of redundancies for the life of the agreement will be voluntary.

While these letters provide some comfort it remains a fact that this correspondence sits outside the agreement. This approach is not dissimilar to the approach taken at Ausgrid and Endeavour so in this respect the draft Essential Energy agreement is the same.

On the 3rd of December the ETU responded to Vince Graham indicating that the exchange of correspondence providing changes to the redeployment policy and guarantees from Vince Graham on behalf of Essential Energy that there will be no forced redundancies, was acceptable to the union.

The final matter to be dealt with in these negotiations revolves around Scope and it has been agreed by both management and the unions on behalf of our members that this matter will be referred to the Fair Work Commission for Consent Arbitration. This matter is scheduled to be heard by Deputy President Hamberger on the 16th and 17th of December with further hearings possible sometime in January before we can expect a decision that may be handed down in late January or early February.

The ETU and Essential Energy have agreed on the above process in order to deal with the matter of scope. We believe that this process is fair and allows the independent umpire to make their decision. If the company refuse to stand by their word and do not proceed to consent arbitration or do not accept the outcome of the Fair Work Commission we will be left with no other option but to withdraw our in principle support for the draft agreement. This would be a major setback in negotiations.

Both parties have agreed to waive any appeal rights in this case and accept the outcome of the independent umpire.

Once this matter has been settled by the Fair Work Commission a draft agreement will be circulated to all Essential Energy employees - likely to be sometime in February. This draft agreement must be provided to the workforce for a period of 7 days before a ballot can commence. The ballot is likely to be a postal ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission which generally takes three weeks after which time the votes are counted.

If the agreement is supported by a majority it will than proceed to the certification phase which can take another couple of weeks. If the agreement is voted down then we will be back at square one, all bets will be off and we start over again including the members' ability to apply for and take future protected industrial action if necessary.

Our current period of protected industrial action will expire on the 15th of December and while members did not need to undertake the threatened action, the simple fact that members were prepared to stand together and be counted was critical.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single delegate from across Essential Energy and in particular the employee reps on the negotiating team. This round of negotiations would have to be one of the most difficult that I can remember in recent times and the outcome that it looks like you have achieved is a credit to each and every one of you.

To all members I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe new year and I will be sure to provide any further updates should this be necessary.

Yours in unity

Steve Butler

Click here to view correspondence between the ETU and Essential Energy.

Click here to view a copy of the draft agreement.

Fair Work Commission recommendation on Motor Vehicle Dispute

Paul Lister - Thursday, December 05, 2013

On the 5th of November 2013 the ETU put Ausgrid in dispute over the lack of consultation on their proposed Motor Vehicle Policy. Today Ausgrid, the ETU and USU appeared before the FWC on that Dispute. SDP Hamberger made the following recommendation-

It is recommended that:

  1. Staff briefings be held concerning the draft fleet motor vehicle allocation and use policy at a Divisional/Regional level through December 2013/January 2014, with union involvement;
  2. Individual allocation meetings occur and are completed by the end of January (where possible);
  3. A report back takes place at FWC on 7 February 2014. At the report back a master list of potentially affected employees will be provided by Ausgrid to the unions (subject to privacy considerations).

A meeting schedule will be developed and communicated so potentially affected members can attend and participate in consultation on the proposed MV Policy.

Any questions can be directed to ETU organisers Justin Page and Mark Buttigieg.

Ausgrid Update - ETU Bans & Defibrillators

Paul Lister - Friday, November 29, 2013

Members will recall that as a result of the tragic fatality at Essential Energy on 2nd September 2013, the ETU placed a safety ban on the restringing, re-tensioning or removal of overhead conductors where there are energised circuits either above or below the circuit being worked on unless the mains were isolated.

These measures were more conservative than Ausgrid’s Safety Alerts because we believed we needed to be conservative in the face of a fatality in order to ensure the safety of our members until such time as we could analyse any deficiencies in Ausgrid’s safety rules and procedures around this type of work.

Over the past few months and weeks we have been working cooperatively with Lineworker delegates and Ausgrid management in an attempt to make sure we come up with a more solid set of rules and procedures which materially lower the risk of this sort of thing happening at Ausgrid.

We are pleased to say that we have now reached that point with the introduction of several added layers of safety measures built in to the planning processes and work for these types of circumstances.

The key points of reforms are:

  • Emphasising the priority of “engineering out the hazard” in the planning and work stages. In other words “we must first consider isolating the energised conductors” before anything else.
  • The introduction of a pre-task checklist and risk assessment to cater for the specific risks involved in these circumstances.
  • The introduction of mandatory isolation of all Live LV exposed mains existing below isolated HV mains which are being erected, removed or restrung.
  • An agreement to introduce in to the Electrical Safety Rules a clause to deal with the Essential Energy situation i.e. Live HV mains above the mains being removed erected or re-strung.
  • Purchase of an extra 67 Automatic Emergency Defibrillators for on the job deployment on top of the 26 which Ausgrid already have.

The new safety processes agreed on will be rolled out by Ausgrid to relevant classifications in detailed toolbox talks over the coming week. As a result of these solid commitments by Ausgrid, members are advised that as soon as they have received the tool-box talk on the new processes and they are comfortable with their understanding of them – the ETU safety ban is lifted and Ausgrid’s safety alert processes will apply. It is important that members understand that until such time as they receive the toolbox talk – the ETU ban stays in place.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all members on their extended support of this ETU safety initiative which once again has resulted in a safer environment for our members. It remains a sad indictment on the industry that major safety improvements such as these tend to happen as a reaction to tragic accidents such as the one at Essential Energy.

These things are never easy to deal with and we fully understand the frustration that it can sometimes cause. However, when we stay united and stick to our principles we can and do achieve great things for the collective good – particularly where it matters most on safety.

Essential EBA update 27 November

Paul Lister - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Following last weeks meetings there are two points that the ETU have written to Vince Graham about seeking clarification and resolution. The issues in question are the "No forced redundancy" provisions and issues around the redeployment of employees.

You can read a copy of the full letter sent to Vince Graham here.

We will advise members the outcome of this matter once a response is received.

Endeavour Energy random alcohol testing

Paul Lister - Monday, November 25, 2013

Below is the agreement between the Company and the ETU as determined at the Fair Work Commission (FWC) earlier today.

This agreement is in respect of the Company’s ability to implement the Random Alcohol Testing component of the Drug and Alcohol Procedure and the recent refusal of members to participate in testing if requested.

(NOTE: The method for the drug testing component of the procedure is still to be resolved through arbitration next month).

Settlement of this matter is reached on the basis of the following terms:

“The union writes to all members saying:
a) It withdraws the direction unequivocally that members not participate in random alcohol testing;
b) That all members are to participate in employer requests for random alcohol testing without limitation, in accordance with the company procedure GHR9004;
c) The union will not reissue any instruction contrary to a) and b) above.

Any questions should be directed to your workplace delegate or ETU Organiser Brad Currey.

Clarification: Essential Energy Redundancy Clause

Paul Lister - Friday, November 22, 2013

I would like to clarify the application of the redundancy clause in the draft agreement, & correct comments in the EBA update sent to delegates yesterday.

The redundancy policy referred to in the agreement, will be the policy for the full term of the agreement. This means that the management cannot reduce the provisions in the policy during the term of the agreement.

New clause
The new clause in the agreement does a number of things.

  • It has forced EE management to write a policy that can be seen by all.
  • It has forced EE management to lock in that policy for the term of the agreement.
  • This gives certainty to members as to the process having to be applied consistently.
  • It has forced the EE management to have to consult with unions on all redundancies.

You will see from the clause (seen below) that the policy for the term of the agreement is the policy as of 20 November 2013. You will also see that the application of the policy is subject to the consultation clause.

The effect is that the policy is locked in for the term of the agreement & the application of the policy has to be consulted. This means if there are any redundancies, the policy has to be applied & EE management must consult with unions when applying the policy. I bolded the important words in the clause.

The clause reads
The redundancy policy for the term of this Agreement is the Essential Energy Redundancy Policy (Management of Surplus Employees) dated 20 November 2013.

The application of this policy will be subject to clause 1.13 (Consultation and Communication) of the Essential Energy Enterprise Agreement.

In unity, Neville Betts

Essential Energy EA update 20 November

Paul Lister - Friday, November 22, 2013

Wednesday (20th November) saw two meetings regarding the EBA. The first meeting was a meeting of the combined unions negotiating group. The second meeting was a meeting of ETU delegates drawn from geographical locations across the state. Essential Energy management limited the number of delegates that they would release. There were a number of issues with cancelled flights that resulted in two delegates being unable to attend.

Union negotiating delegates meeting.

The first meeting discussions were assisted by retired Deputy President John Greyson. After discussion we then had EE COO Humphries & cronies discuss the matter with the negotiating committee. The negotiating delegates discussed all the facts, & after detailed & open discussion determined to recommend an agreement to the delegates attending the second meeting.

The negotiating delegates determined that mandatory elements of any agreement is to be based on three fundamental principles being;

  • Job security
  • No trade offs
  • Reasonable increase

Delegates Meeting.

As reported above, EE management restricted the number of delegates that they were willing to release & transport to Sydney was an issue for some. The Secretary determined that I then provide a shortened list of delegates for the meeting. I then identified delegates from various locations in an attempt to provide representation spread over the state.

32 delegates met & discussed the current position. We then invited Humphries to address the meeting. I was extremely proud of the delegates who made the feelings of the membership crystal clear to Humphries in a full & frank exchange.

Following Humphries & his cronies leaving the meeting delegates discussed & debated all matters at hand.

After detailed discussions & debate , the delegates determined that an agreement based on the following to be recommended to members;

  • That the matter of the scope argument be dealt with by arbitration (set to be heard on the 16th & 17th December) with the decision of Senior Deputy President Hamburger to be the determined scope with all parties bound by the decision with no appeal.
  • That the proposed agreement be based on the current (2011 Agreement).
  • That new clauses sought by the unions be included:
    • Outsourcing
    • Consultation
    • Work practices
    • Dispute Settlement procedures
    • Domestic Violence

These clauses are clauses that are from Endeavour or Ausgrid. The negotiating delegates identified these as improvements to the current agreement. This clearly is narrowing the differences between supply authorities in NSW & works towards or objectives of common EBA’s.

  • The inclusion of redundancy in the EBA. This will be in the form of a clause that refers to a policy as of yesterdays date and will remain the policy for the full term of the agreement. We argued for an increase in the entitlement, that has been rejected. Delegates determined that as we have no provision in the agreement & that by having this in the agreement it gives us opportunity to try to increase in the future. There is to also be a commitment to no forced redundancies that will assist in the identified objective of job security.
  • That members retain the right to choose payment option for those working away from home.
  • The increases be 2.7% from 1 July 2013 & 1 July 2014 & that should the federal government not provide a SGL superannuation increase in 2014 that the full 2.7 be paid.
  • That all allowances be increased by the wage increase %’s with the exclusion of ESRA & meal allowance during the day. The meal allowance during the day to be increased in accordance with the ATO determined figure.
  • Essential Energy write to unions to confirm their agreement to the matters above.
  • That a new draft agreement be written by EE to reflect the items above.
  • That The DRAFT agreement be completed by the decision of SDP Hamburger.

Clearly there is still some water to go under the bridge. Delegates determined that they felt the proposal, when reflected in a new draft agreement, should be recommended to members.

Obviously for any agreement to be finalised it will require a vote of employees.

This would take place following the resolution of the Scope arbitration which will determine the scope clause for any new agreement.

We also sought that The Union and EE agree to a general timetable of events so it can be communicated to members.

Delegates will receive a text for a hook up early next week.

In Unity, Neville Betts.

Ausgrid Denying Recognition of Prior Service for Voluntary Redundancies

Bruce Fan - Monday, November 18, 2013

In Ausgrid’s Electrical Trades Mix and Match Program Update, Issue 2- 6 November 2013, Ausgrid stated they are not going to recognise prior service from other NSW Government Departments to count towards the three weeks per year of service.

The ETU has been in discussion with Ausgrid for some time now and has consistently maintained that Ausgrid should recognise this prior service as they have in the past. Ausgrid concedes that prior service has applied in previous Voluntary Redundancies - as recently as 2005. Prior Service was recognised in those redundancies based on the principle that no previous redundancy was paid for the prior service and that continuity of employment would be recognised between these NSW Gov Departments so long as there was less than a 2 months break between taking up the new employment.
Members Who have expressed an interest in the current “Mix and Match” program and have had Prior Service with a NSW Authority listed in the attachment list: At the time you transferred from a NSW Government Authority you would have received a letter from Ausgrid / Energy Australia / Orion etc. acknowledging your transfer of employment”.

You need this Letter. If you do not have it in your personal files, you should approach Ausgrid to obtain it through their records in your personal history file.

Ausgrid intend to make offers of Voluntary Redundancies in the coming weeks. If you believe you are entitled to prior service, DO NOT sign any offer before contacting you organiser.

Essential Energy EA Update 13 November

Paul Lister - Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The unions and management attended a private meeting with Deputy President Hamberger on Monday to discuss a way to move negotiations forward. As a result of that meeting Vince Graham has written to the unions, in summary, with the following proposal:

  • The policy on redundancy will be referred to in the agreement.
  • That unions and management agree to refer the matter of scope to consent arbitration. Both parties agree to accept the outcome of the Fair Work Commission and waive any appeal rights.
  • That the unions commit to withdraw current protected action and waive their right to apply for future action.

The ETU’S response to Vince’s correspondence is as follows:

  • The unions will agree to the redundancy clause once the unions words are included in the draft agreement.
  • The unions agree to proceed to consent arbitration on the matter of scope and in doing so the unions commit to accepting the outcome handed down by the Commission.
  • The unions reserve our right to apply for protected industrial action under the current approved period of any future period that may be granted.
  • That a full delegates meeting be held at the ETU's office at 10am on Wednesday 20 November.
  • That agreement is conditional on the acceptance and approval by the full meeting of delegates.

We will keep members up to date with any further developments as they occur.