Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

ETU Gets All Clear from NSW Election Funding Authority

- Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The ETU is required to disclose any political expenditure incurred during a declared period leading up to NSW General Elections. This disclosure was made by the ETU NSW Branch and the CEPU Electrical Division NSW Branch on Tuesday 22 September in accordance with reporting requirements.

The ETU today received confirmation from the NSW Electoral Funding Authority that our disclosure has been reviewed and accepted with no questions arising.

Full details of all political disclosures for all entities will be available on the NSW Electoral Funding Authority website next month.

Essential Energy Update 22 Sept

- Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Redundancy Policy - Court Action.

As you would be aware the unions had made application to the FWC for questions of law. This application was heard by the President of the FWC Iain Ross who has determined that the FWC is capable of answering such questions and therefore that the FWC would not refer the matter to the Federal Court. In light of that decision the ETU’s subsequent legal advice is that we should not make separate application to the Federal Court as the court is unlikely to intervene in a matter that the FWC has determined it can handle itself.

Arbitration on the specific question of whether or not EE can introduce a new Redundancy Policy under the current Agreement will proceed on the 9th October. In the meantime it is important that members understand that this process could take months and under the status quo EE cannot force people out the door. The ETU will be negotiating with EE over the next few weeks with our goal being to demonstrate to the organization why they don’t need a forced redundancy policy if they manage this process in a credible and logical way by improving the voluntary redundancy package as proposed by the ETU.

We will keep you informed of progress as it unfolds. Please check the website for regular updates.

EBA negotiations.

Any suggestion that the unions are stalling the EBA negotiations is total rubbish. The fact is that EE management ceased negotiations for two weeks due to the Manager of Employee relations not being available. We believe that he was on leave. At the last negotiation meeting EE management completed their explanation of their claims. The ETU has proposed that the ETU has proposed that a joint draft agreement should be formulated with proposed changes from all parties identified in one singular document. I have proposed that this would be based on the current agreement with any proposed changes identified in a table contained in each clause. If this document is created I will make it available for to members. The next EBA meeting is Monday the 28th of September.

ETU seeks Mix & Match for graduating apprentices.

The ETU have written to EE seeking graduated apprentices have access to mix & match. We have also made it clear that we are opposed to the use of spill & fill for positions. The use of spill & fill is a management attempt to get the union to agree to involuntary redundancy.

In a spill & fill process all workers in a classification that is targeted for reduction would have to compete against each other to keep the job that the currently hold. This pits member against member. Your management also wanted to add the fixed term members into the mix & match process. This would effectively lead to the potential to have an increased number of current permanent employees losing their jobs. The ETU believes that EE should be seeking to re-enter the contestable market & look for other opportunities for business to expand the opportunities for retention of jobs. An example could be EE providing Solar power installations for customers in towns & on properties. We believe that these initiatives would expand EE’s business & create career opportunities for members. We also have called on EE to stop contracting out jobs.

AER blamed for everything!

EE management have continued to blame the AER decision for every anti worker decision that EE are making.

The AER determination has without doubt created a significant impact. You should all be aware that other organisations have suffered similar outcomes for the AER decision. Transgrid have had a 25% reduction in the allowable regulated income. Transgrid management decided that they did not want to lose their employees & subsequently have decided to seek alternative non regulated work. Due to their progressive attitude & their demonstrated respect for their employees, there has been NO redundancies at Transgrid.

The ETU is disgusted at the proposal by EE management to reduce members conditions of employment.

You will all be aware that EE have tabled claims to drastically reduce members entitlements. Your management have stated that they want to reduce your conditions so that EE is competitive & sustainable. This is a hollow argument from EE as you don’t have to compete with anyone for the work that you do & EE have state that the reduction of 1395 jobs will ensure that all jobs are fully funded. They cant have it both ways. When questioned on this EE have stated words to the effect that reducing conditions will make them profitable ! So in other words they want our members pay for increased profit of the company !!

This is absolutely disgraceful.

It was only 14 months ago when the current agreement was agreed &certified in the Fair Work Commission.

The ETU have become aware of EE proposing to contract out Asset inspection. Clearly this is a further attack on members & jobs in regional NSW. We will be participating in meetings with EE on this issue. The managements proposal is in the early stages. ETU organiser ,Matt McCann will coordinate the defence of these members jobs & attend meetings on this issue along with 4 workplace representatives.

- Neville Betts, Deputy Secretary.

Ausgrid Update 21 September - AER and MEE

- Monday, September 21, 2015

AER Consultative Committee (ACC)

The combined unions have recently met with Ausgrid on two occasions, Wednesday 9th September and Friday 11th September. On Wednesday 9th Ausgrid management proceeded to table surplus numbers on a depot by depot basis and insisted that they wished to communicate this to their staff that day.

The unions argued that this was premature given that the workforce planning detail, including a breakdown of the numbers and types of positions that management deem surplus, as well as a full list of confirmed Expressions of Interest for voluntary redundancy was not forthcoming to date. Ausgrid have also not presented any significant mix and match opportunities to date. We argued that the unions want to actively participate in a genuine process where we can have input into;

  1. Maximizing the take up of those who have expressed a willingness to take a VR and
  2. Maximizing mix and match opportunities to allow those who want to go to leave and those who want to stay to be matched with remaining positions.

Ausgrid however were hell bent on communicating to all employees that they have identified X amount of positions to go from Y depot without having explored all opportunities to minimize anxiety and insecurity that this causes. After some pressure from the unions Trevor Armstrong agreed to a further meeting on Friday 11th where some more high level numbers were provided on workforce planning but still not the detail we require to allow us to provide constructive feedback.

The unions urged this information to be provided and asked for meetings twice a week to work through the process. Ausgrid refused. As a result the ETU lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission which was supported by the USU. The result of that dispute, which was heard on Wednesday 16th September, is attached for your information. It means Ausgrid must now sit down with us and consult more thoroughly.

We will continue to do everything possible to save as many jobs as we can. To date we believe management have been playing games, one hand Ausgrid say they are bleeding $12.6m per month and on the other they will not let people go who have expressed an interest in VR because their “work-force planning doesn’t allow it” – they refuse to work through the detail with us forcing unions to take them to Fair Work.

Approximately 590 people have said they want to exit the organization voluntarily and Ausgrid needs 553 to go. Ausgrid however, still insist they need a forced redundancy policy without having exhausted all the opportunities we have identified to them. ETU Members cannot be blamed for being cynical towards how Ausgrid is being (mis)managed.

Unlike Mr.Graham, our objective is jobs and job security and we believe any reduction to the workforce can be achieved without the need for compulsory redundancy.

Redundancy Policy - Court Action.

The unions had made application to the FWC that questions of law (i.e. whether the implementation of a Redundancy Policy with a forced provision would contravene the NSW sales act legislation in respect of job guarantees and no forced redundancies) be referred to the Federal Court.

Click here to view a copy of the FWC recommendation.

This application was heard by the President of the FWC Iain Ross who has determined that the FWC is capable of dealing with the dispute before it (introduction of involuntary redundancy) and therefore the FWC would not refer the matter to the Federal Court. In light of that decision the ETU sought legal advice which advised we should not make separate application to the Federal Court as the court is unlikely to intervene in a matter that the FWC has ruled it can determine itself.

As a result of Ausgrid’s application to the FWC regarding the introduction of a new redundancy policy under the current agreement, Arbitration will proceed on the 9th October. In the meantime it is important that members understand that this process could take months and under the status quo Ausgrid cannot force people out the door.

The ETU will be negotiating with Ausgrid over the next few weeks to demonstrate to the organization why there is no need for a forced redundancy policy if the process is well managed.

We will keep you informed of progress as it unfolds.

Ausgrid Update 28 August

- Friday, August 28, 2015

EBA Negotiations

Since the last update the combined unions negotiating committee has met with Ausgrid management on Wednesday 19th and 26th August. Despite the large gulf that exists between Ausgrids proposed agreement and the combined unions proposed agreement it was agreed that the most efficient use of time would be to go through each clause and allocate the clauses in to one of three categories; “Agreed”, “Review” or “Not Agreed”. This process has progressed to clause 15 to date. The next meeting will occur on the 9th September.

In response to questions from the combined unions regarding Ausgrid’s proposed Agreement, Ausgrid tabled a detailed costing of each condition they propose to cut and equated each cut to full time jobs which they say can be “saved”. Upon questioning from the ETU the organization confirmed that if it were able to raise the equivalent amount of funds from alternative sources the same amount of jobs could be saved without the cuts to the Agreement that Ausgrid are proposing. Click here to view Ausgrid’s presentation on award cuts.


AER Consultative Committee (ACC) and Redundancy Policy Negotiations

Members will recall that a mass meeting of delegates held at Silverwater Training Centre on the 22 July endorsed the negotiating committee to initiate consultation on the Redundancy, Salary Maintenance and Redeployment Policy within the AER Consultative Committee forum in accordance with the FWC recommendation. Meetings were held on Wednesday 19th and 26th August. The combined unions tabled a draft voluntary redundancy policy which consists of an increased pro-rata amount plus an enhanced package if the redundancy is accepted within a relatively short time frame. This draft policy is attached for delegate’s information. Ausgrid are yet to respond to the proposal. The meetings also resulted in some progress on the Mix and Match front with Ausgrid now beginning to implement limited Mix and Match programs in a bid to facilitate voluntary redundancies, as has been argued by the unions for some months now.

The ACC charter has a joint union delegates meeting scheduled on Wednesday 2nd September in order to discuss the proposed redundancy policy and updates delegates. Accordingly a mass delegates meeting will be held at Sliverwater Training Centre at 10am Wednesday 2nd September. Attendance will be limited to one delegate from each work group as per the previous mass delegates meeting.

Questions can be directed to your EBA negotiating committee members or ETU Organisers Mark Buttigieg and Justin Page.

Payroll Deduction of Union Fees

- Friday, August 28, 2015

Ausgrid have now written to all employees informing them that if they receive a complying payroll deduction authority form which specifies the new union fee rate to be deducted they will continue to deduct union fees from payroll. This is subject to any future agreement negotiation outcomes which, in Ausgrid’s view, should result in this provision not being available.

Ausgrid have also written to the ETU stating that if they do not receive compliant payroll deduction forms by the 1st October 2015 they will cease deducting union fees for all past non-compliant deductions.

Members who remain on payroll deduction should also note that as of 1st July 2015, if they have not completed a new payroll deduction form Ausgrid have been deducting the old fee rate and therefore these members will become un-financial over time. To remain a financial member with full protection and benefits ALL payroll deduction members must update payroll deduction details or switch to direct debit.

Current membership rates can be viewed here.

If you are currently on payroll deduction and are unwilling to switch to direct debit you must complete a new payroll deduction form which can be done on line here. Note: that for those members who opt to stay on payroll deduction, this process of re-authorisation will have to be done annually.

Members should now be well aware that the ETU/CEPU’s overwhelming preference has been and remains for members to switch to direct debit (bank account or credit card) as it removes Ausgrid from the union/member relationship.

We strongly urge all members who have not yet done so to switch to direct debit now by either contacting their delegate and completing the necessary direct debit authorisation form or completing the process on line.

IMPORTASNT: Endeavour Energy Use of Ladders

- Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Members are advised of a recent situation that has come to the ETU’s attention in regards to using/climbing extension ladders.

At our resent Regional JCC meeting, on Wednesday 5th August 2015 with all 3 Regional Managers in attendance, and again last week while representing a fellow member under a disciplinary cloud around this issue, the following was clearly stated;

Any work above 2metres, the ladder must be footed by another worker, during all ascending, descending and if necessary whilst workers are undertaking activities aloft from the ladder. If this is not possible workers should consider an alternate method of accessing the work e.g. EWP

Also see: Safety Alert 04-15 | issued13 February 2015.

Be warned that Endeavour Energy has and will initiate disciplinary matters against any employee on site, whether involved in an incident or not, or, are part of the work crew where someone breaches this direction.

It is unfortunate that this message has failed to be distributed successfully and clearly across the franchise to all Field Staff.

To avoid any additional issues against our members, please comply with the above work practice.

In Unity,
Brad Currey

Essential Energy: Draft Management EBA Tabled

- Monday, August 17, 2015

Essential Energy management have today tabled a draft agreement written and proposed by management. ETU members at Essential Energy should view this move as an attack on your conditions of employment.

The ETU tabled a draft agreement weeks ago and Essential Energy management have failed to respond.

Members should view managements proposed draft agreement (link below) as Humphries, Smith and other managers' wish list. Under the Fair Work Act parties are obliged to bargain in good faith and today's move is anything but.

Click Here to see managements wish list and draft agreement.

Endeavour Energy Update 10 August

- Monday, August 10, 2015

Since my last “Notice to Members” to provide an update on the EBA negotiations, there’s been some new developments.

Endeavour tabled a complete draft EBA which contained all their claims and attacks on your entitlements and conditions of employment, as previously published.  At this same EBA negotiations meeting your Negotiating Team also tabled a draft EBA which identified our position(s).

Following that we’ve had a joint union full delegates meeting to discuss what Endeavour has tabled and received feedback from the meeting, of which we have informed the Company at a subsequent meeting.

The feedback and instructions we received at the delegates meeting was basically that there was no appetite to accept what the Company has tabled but they directed your Negotiating Team to keep bargaining and keep pursuing our 3 key EBA outcome principles/interests;

  1. Job Security,
  2. Maintain Conditions of Employment, and
  3. Achieve a reasonable wage increase.

On a positive note, at our last 2 EBA negotiating meetings the Unions have been successful in engaging the Company Negotiating Representatives into an exercise of going through OUR draft EBA, as tabled on the 17th Feb 2015 and again the recent meeting prior to the full delegates meeting, identifying clauses into 3 categories;

  1. Clauses that the Parties have a “Consensus”,
  2. Clauses the Parties aren’t opposed to but wish to “Review”, and
  3. Clauses where the parties are at “Difference” (polar opposite positions).

The benefit of this exercise is that, at least we can start to develop a “Work-in-Progress” EBA document which will contain clauses within it that are agreed to (in principle) by all the negotiating parties and narrow down the areas of difference.  From hear we hope to build, clause by clause, on progressing towards a favourable outcome in line with our 3 key EBA outcome principles/interests.

In Unity - Brad Currey - 0431 838 852 / bradc@etunsw.asn.au

Ausgrid Update 7 August

- Friday, August 07, 2015

As previously notified in the last Notice to Members dated 4 August 2015, Ausgrid made application to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for arbitration on the question of whether they could implement their proposed Managing Excess Employees (MEE) policy once they had consulted on it.

On Monday 3rd August, legal counsel for the ETU/CEPU appeared before Vice President (VP) Hatcher and argued that there are broader questions of law in relation to the prospective implementation of the MEE policy in respect of the forced redundancy provisions. The ETU/CEPU argued that these questions should be referred by the FWC to the Federal Court.
Ausgrid argued against the referral on the basis that they do not think that the questions are one of law. Nevertheless VP Hatcher was of the view that the ETU/CEPU had a right to make the application and he would not be intending to substantially progress with the matter until our application to the President of the FWC had been determined.
Ausgrid then asked VP Hatcher to set aside a date for the arbitration at the FWC in the event that the President did not refer the question to the Federal Court. VP Hatcher has reserved the 9th October 2015 for possible arbitration.
This is a significant development. If Ausgrid are genuinely serious about dealing with the AER funding reduction where they constantly tell us that they bleed $12.6 million / month, then they should be working with us NOW to try and reduce job losses as much as possible through methods we have suggested which will increase income and reduce costs.  Once job losses have been minimised then Ausgrid should be seriously looking at a flexible mix and match program which allows those who wish to exit to do so and those who wish to stay to stay. To date all we have had is stonewalling on these issues.

EBA bargaining meeting and AER Consultative Committee meeting– 05 August, 2015

The combined Unions met with Ausgrid and continued discussions on the Enterprise Agreement negotiations and AER Consultation. The Enterprise Agreement discussions were not productive with Ausgrid continuing to try and introduce more reductions in employee’s conditions. The Unions have requested Ausgrid list clearly all of their claims so as employees are clear on the attack to their current conditions. Our position is clearly represented in the draft document we presented to Ausgrid last week and provides job security and delivers a sensible 2.5% pay rise without trading off conditions.

Discussions on the AER Consultation were also unproductive. The Unions suggested a range of initiatives for Ausgrid to consider with the aim of saving as many jobs as possible above 3570.
These initiatives include;

  1. Mix and Match VR programs to allow those who want a Voluntary Redundancy to go. Currently there are 670 employees who have expressed an interest in a VR and Ausgrid refuse to allow them to go while claiming they are losing $12.6 million dollars per month on unfunded jobs. The Unions are urging Ausgrid to take a serious approach to this.
  2. Job share arrangements.
  3. 48 / 52 Annual Leave scheme.
  4. Re enter the Contestable Market in areas where Ausgrid can be competitive. Contestable Metering alone makes Ausgrid $30 Million per year for example.
  5. Ausgrid should also drop Blended Delivery (contracting out). Why on earth would you be contracting out work when there are people on your books who have the skills, capacity and time to do the work competitively?

Ausgrid’s response was to dismiss all of the Unions initiatives; their view is that the ideas “would not work operationally in their business”. It is clear that Ausgrid are not interested in saving any jobs above the minimum 3570 in the legislation.

The Unions focus has not wavered. We will continue to fight for job security, no tradeoffs, a fair wage increase and we are determined to save as many jobs as possible. You shouldn’t have to pay for Ausgrid’s inept management of a funding shortfall which they precipitated.

In Unity,

Mark Buttigieg 0417 208 447  |  Justin Page 0414 877 301

Notice to Members - Ausgrid Update

- Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Mass Delegates meeting – 22 July 2015

With the assistance of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on the 16th July, the ETU and the other unions were able to successfully argue against Ausgrid’s dispute contention that “we were failing to consult” on the company’s proposed Managing Excess Employees Policy (MEE) which, as members would be aware, contains a forced redundancy provision. At the FWC we identified that in order to consult on a new Redundancy, Redeployment and Salary Maintenance Policy it would subject to the following conditions;

  1. A mass delegates meeting to gain the authority for the EBA negotiating committee to discuss the matter both within the EBA bargaining process and the AER Consultative Committee (ACC).
  2. That any prospective implementation of a new policy should be by Agreement within the bargaining process.

The mass delegates’ meeting was agreed to by Ausgrid. At that meeting delegated authority to consult on a Redundancy and Redeployment policy within the bargaining and ACC processes was given.

EBA bargaining meeting – 29 July, 2015

The ETU/CEPU took part in the second round of revived enterprise agreement negotiations on Wednesday 29th July at the Silverwater Training Centre.

In line with the request from the ETU and other unions Ausgrid this time tabled their offer in the form of a draft agreement which included tracked changes. The previous notice to members summarized those changes which can only be described as disingenuous and clearly designed to be an unacceptable proposition given their effect of;

  • Increased job insecurity
  • Massive reductions in conditions and allowances and
  • A two year wage freeze.

The ETU/CEPU and other unions also tabled a draft Agreement with tracked changes and comments as to why our changes were made. The draft agreement was tabled as a work in process and contains the following provisions which address the three matters with which our members have instructed us to negotiate on.

Job Security

  • Draft improved Redundancy, Redeployment and Salary Maintenance clause to be incorporated in the agreement.
  • Draft improved Outsourcing and contracting out clause.
  • Draft improved Labour Hire clause.
  • Draft improved Fixed Term Employment clause.

No Trade Offs

  • There is nothing in our draft Agreement which proposes tradeoffs in conditions.

A reasonable outcome on wages

  • A two year Agreement from Dec 2014 to Dec 2016 with 2.5% pay rises in December 2014 and 2015. This rise is in line with current state government policy.

The ETU/CEPU and combined unions position is a reasonable and sensible proposition in the current circumstances and responsibly reflects members concerns with respect to job security.

AER Consultative meeting – 29 July, 2015

This meeting reached agreement on a timetable for consultation and the corresponding matters that would be discussed at various dates in respect of work-force planning and identification of surplus positions as well as mix and match options. Progress with respect to “guiding principles” was also made with the unions to send Ausgrid their suggestions in writing.

Ausgrid continue to argue that they are bleeding $12.6m a month which they say is a result of 1100 unfunded jobs because of the AER determination and that they need a new MEE policy to help push people out the door. The ETU/CEPU  continue to press the case that the volume of job reductions should not solely be a function of funding reductions but also a function of initiatives the union has suggested to reduce costs and increase income. These initiatives should translate in to reduced job losses. The reduced number should then be dealt with via a flexible but structured mix and match program which allows people who wish to exit the organization to take a VR package and those that want to stay to be backfilled in to those positions.

To date the company has been intent on picking and choosing who they want to go and who they want to stay and as a result of not getting a high enough uptake they now attempt to argue that you should accept a slash and burn of your agreement conditions and pay. The union will not accept a proposition which says that because of Ausgrid’s incompetent and lazy management of the exercise – you should have to pay.

On 24th July 2015, the ETU/CEPU wrote to Ausgrid asking them to state their position with respect to whether or not they could or would;

  1. Introduce their proposed MEE policy outside the Enterprise Agreement and;
  2. Introduce forced redundancies, given the no forced redundancy provision in the Electricity Sales Act legislation.

In response to our 24th July correspondence on Thursday 30th July, Ausgrid’s NSW taxpayer funded lawyers wrote to the Fair Work Commission and the ETU/CEPU stating that they now intend to have the FWC arbitrate on their ability to simply introduce their MEE policy once “consultation” is complete.

On 30th July SDP Hamberger considered Ausgrid’s request during a report back on the policy consultation and has determined that the matter be referred to Fair Work’s Vice President Hatcher in order that he determine the matter by arbitration at the FWC. The matter was reviewed by VP Hatcher yesterday afternoon. Details of the outcome will be forthcoming.

Last week Ausgrid argued we weren’t consulting with them, now that we are, they want to override the consultation outcome and simply implement their MEE policy. Their action is contemptuous of their employees and hits a new low even when measured against the recent history of Vince Graham’s actions.

In the meantime the ETU/CEPU will continue to consult on the Agreement and the Redundancy, Redeployment and Salary Maintenance policy in the interests of our members as outlined above. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact either of us.

In Unity,

MARK BUTTIGIEG - 0417 208 447 / markb@etunsw.asn.au 

JUSTIN PAGE - 0414 877 301 / justinp@etunsw.asn.au