Essential Energy recently awarded a major vegetation control contract covering the NSW Central West to Victorian based company Vemco. Vemco were due to commence the contract in February 2016 after winning the contract from current contractor Active Tree Services.
But on Tuesday night the Vemco contract was up in the air after the company announced without notice the appointment of administrators. No warning was provided to the ETU about the pending administration of the company and the union is now calling on Essential Energy to review Vemco’s contract.
ETU Organiser Stewart Edward said that Essential Energy have a responsibility to workers and the community to provide certainty when it comes to the safe control of vegetation around power lines.
“What we have in the Central West is a well-established company that has undertaken vegetation control work for Essential Energy over many years losing their contract to an interstate company that appears to be in financial dire straits.” said Stewart.
“Workers who are employed with current contractor Active Tree Services were facing an uncertain future due to the change in contracts and now we have a company that may not even be able to fulfil their future obligations.
“Even if Vemco resurfaced from voluntary administration I would hold concerns about the financial viability of that company and their ability to pay workers into the future.
“The logical thing for Essential Energy to do is revoke Vemco’s contract and award it to a company that has a proven track record of operating a reliable vegetation control operation in the local area.” Steward said
Essential Energy recently changed vegetation control contractors on the NSW North Coast where workers were encourage to resign their employment from Active Tree Services and sign a new employment contract with Eastern Tree Services resulting in dozens of ETU members having to fight for redundancy payments.
ETU Organiser Stewart Edward was in the Central West region this week to hear the concerns of ETU members working for Active Tree Services.
“Most of the workers I spoke to were considering switching employment to Vemco but had no idea what their new pay and conditions would be.” said Stewart
“Now these workers really have no idea about what the future holds as their current employer has lost the work contract and the company set to take over is almost broke.
Stewart said to add insult to injury Active Tree Services had a track record in keeping workers in the dark and trying to minimise or avoid paying redundancy entitlements to workers.
“Active Trees have a track record when it comes to avoiding the payment of workers redundancy entitlements and I have warned ETU members about this.
“My advice to all ETU members currently working for Active Tree Services in the Central West is that if they leave their employment or sign a resignation they will be placing at risk any redundancy entitlement they may have.” Stewart said.
“It’s time for Essential Energy to review the Vemco contract and it’s time for Active Tree Services management to come clean with workers and tell them exactly what is going on with their employment.” finished Stewart.
The ETU advises all members to contact the union about any concerns BEFORE they make a hasty decision which could cost them thousands of dollars.
Active Trees has provided very little information to the workforce regarding their future following the loss of the Essential Energy contract. These workers are now facing a similar situation to their colleagues on the North Coast who were encouraged to resign.
Active Tree workers on the North Coast were also directed to work many hours away from their normal area in an effort to wear them down causing a great deal of stress and anxiety. The ETU believes this was a clear strategy by Active Tree Services to reduce or eliminate any redundancy payments.
ETU members on the North Coast stuck together and through the actions of the ETU were eventually paid their redundancy entitlements worth a total of $1.5 million. Many of these workers have now made the switch to new contractor Eastern Tree Services.
Click here to read the notice from PPB Advisory to Vemco Staff
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