Electricity, Water and Utilities

Electricity, Water and Utilities

Privatisation Update Number 5

- Friday, May 29, 2015

Last night the NSW Liberals and Nationals voted in the Legislative Assembly in support of privatising the NSW electricity network businesses – comprising 50.4% each of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy and 100% of TransGrid.

Not one Liberal or National party MP raised potential job losses and not one Liberal or National Party MP sought job protections despite many saying at the election they would stand up and fight to protect local jobs.

Last night’s vote paves the way for the legislation to now be debated in the Upper House next week.

The Upper House Inquiry into the transactions has a deliberative meeting today to finalise their report headed up by Fred Nile. It is expected that this report will support the government’s privatisation plan with some conditions and we wait to see if the report will include any job protections.

It is our view that the privatisation legislation will be debated and voted on next Wednesday allowing for the Upper House report to be tabled in the parliament on Tuesday. The ETU has a meeting scheduled with the Premier and Treasurer on Monday where we expect to hear what job protections the government is proposing.

I believe this meeting is nothing more than an opportunity for the government to dictate what protections they plan to provide. I have advised the government that I am available after hours and any time over the weekend to negotiate a strong package of employment protections however to date this offer has been ignored by the government.

I have today issued multiple press releases targeting local MPs over their failure to stand up and fight for local job protections. You can read these statements below.

I will continue to keep members up to date on any developments.

In Unity - Steve Butler, Secretary 

ETU Press Releases

Privatisation Update Number 4

- Thursday, May 28, 2015

Today I met with representatives from the NSW Treasurers office to express in the strongest possible terms that a strong employment package is necessary in relation to the government privatisation plans.

Prior to the election Premier Mike Baird said that he would provide employment guarantees and protections for electricity workers but he has so far failed to consult with workers or their unions over such protections.

The ETU and other power industry unions last week tabled a list of employment guarantees which have been circulated to members and can be found in earlier updates. The ETU is pushing for a similar package to that provided to our members in the generation sector including job guarantee’s (Fred Nile is talking about 5 years which we support), transfer payments, continuity of service, superannuation protections and guarantees relating to apprentices to name a few.

While we are working as hard as possible to secure these arrangements it is clear that the NSW Government would prefer to provide much lower levels of protection similar to those provided to Port workers and Sydney Ferry workers which provided for 2 year job protections.

We continue to meet with MP’s from all party’s to ensure the strongest possible protections are secured however the fact remains that employment protections will be determined by Fred Nile and the Government.

The Upper House Inquiry will hold a deliberative meeting tomorrow with their final report due to be tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday after which time the Government will introduce legislation in the Upper House. It is my view that the legislation permitting the lease of TransGrid, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy will be debated and voted on next Wednesday, this will include any employment protection package.

I again urge ETU members to again take action by calling or emailing your local MP. Click here for a list of contact details for your local MP.

In Unity - Steve Butler, Secretary.

Privatisation Update Number 3

- Wednesday, May 27, 2015

For the past two days the ETU has held our biennial conference in Wollongong with more than 100 ETU conference delegates – it was at our conference we found out that the Baird government intended to introduce legislation to allow the privatisation of TransGrid, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy to the NSW Parliament. As a result I have returned to the office a day early to provide this update for members.

Yesterday the Government introduced legislation to the Legislative Assembly to permit the leasing on Transgrid, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy. At no time prior to this has the government or the companies involved sought to consult with workers who will be affected by this transaction or their unions.

Further the government have chosen to introduce this legislation even before the Upper House inquiry into the transaction has been handed down – this in my view demonstrates this government’s disregard for due process and consultation with workers and the people of NSW.

Last week unions tabled our job protections package with the parliamentary inquiry. These protections were based on precedence including the 2009 retail employment protections and 2012 generator protections – a copy of this was circulated to ETU members last week.

We have today written to the management of TransGrid, Endeavour Energy and Ausgrid seeking urgent consultation around job protections resulting from this major change to the businesses. We have also written to the NSW Treasurer seeking an urgent meeting to discuss this same matter.

During all previous privatisation transactions including electricity retail, generators and Sydney Ferries the employment protections package has been developed prior to legislation being voted on and the ETU expects the same respect and consultative process in relation to the poles and wires.

ETU members can access and read the legislation that the government has introduced to the parliament at the following links:

Electricity Network Assets (Authorised Transactions) Bill 2015

Electricity Retained Interest Corporations Bill 2015

ETU members can also view the ETU and Unions NSW submissions to the Upper House inquiry in relation to employment protections at the following links:

ETU Response to Questions on Notice including employment protections

Unions NSW Response to Questions on Notice on behalf of power industry unions

The ETU is continuing discussions with a range of politicians in order to achieve the best possible outcome for members. We have already secured meetings with some cross bench MP’s and we will continue to push for genuine consultation from the government.

The fact remains that no part of NSW will be spared when it comes to potential job losses resulting from privatisation. TransGrid remains a largely regional network while parts of Endeavour Energy and Ausgrid also extend into regional NSW.

For this reason I encourage all ETU members, their families and friends to call and email your local MP and urge them to support strong employment protections particularly Liberal and National Party members whose electorates will be impacted through the 100% sale of TransGrid and 50.4% sale of Endeavour Energy and Ausgrid.

A full list of MP contact details can be found here.

We will continue to keep you up to date on any developments, any questions may be directed to your workplace delegate or ETU organiser.

In Unity - Steve Butler, Secretary


Privatisation Update Number 2

- Thursday, May 21, 2015

Over the past two week the NSW Government has conducted an inquiry into the NSW Governments plans to privatise the NSW electricity network – namely 50.4% of each Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy and 100% of TransGrid.

Last Monday the ETU appeared before the upper house inquiry to provide evidence on why we believe the privatisation of this essential service is bad for the people of NSW. The ETU, along with the USU and Professionals Australia all made written submissions to the inquiry.

Click here to view all submissions, including the ETU’s.

While many people that appeared before the committee outlined concerns and provided evidence that privatisation is not in the interest of the people of NSW we believe that the committee will support the transaction in their final report which is due to be tabled in Parliament next week.

Power industry unions were also asked by the committee to outline what we believe should be included in any employment protection package. Following on from this request Unions NSW convened a meeting of all power industry unions on Tuesday in order to develop a list of employment protections.

A copy of the combined unions employment protections submission can be viewed online. The ETU will continue to fight for our members to ensure a strong package of employment protections is provided in the event of privatisation.

We are unsure of what the committee will include in his final report but we do expect the committee to support the governments planned sale.

On another note you would have heard that the NSW network businesses have lodged an appeal in relation to the recent AER determination, a step that the ETU welcomes. We believe that the AER determination was too harsh and we are hopeful that this appeal will result in a more positive outcome for the people of NSW and those working in the sector.

In Unity - Steve Butler, Secretary

Privatisation Update Number 1

- Monday, May 11, 2015

Parliament resumed last week following the re-election of the Baird Government with a significantly reduced majority. The final breakdown in the Upper House is 12 Labor, 20 Liberal/Nationals, 5 Greens, 2 Shooters & Fishers, 2 Christian Democrats and 1 Animal Justice Party. The government requires 42 votes to pass legislation meaning that Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats hold the balance of power.

Last week the Upper House voted to establish an inquiry into electricity privatisation with the first sitting taking place today. The ETU will be making a submission on behalf of our members to oppose the privatisation of the NSW electricity distribution & transmission networks, we are scheduled to appear before the committee on Friday.

ETU members can make individual submission online at the NSW Parliament website - www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/electricityleasing. Alternatively hard copy written submission can be sent to:

The Director
Select Committee on the Leasing of Electricity Infrastructure
Parliament House
Macquarie Street

Some people believe that this inquiry is nothing more than a show trial and that the committee will make recommendations supporting Mike Baird’s privatisation plan. Despite these views we are determined to protect members by making a submission and providing evidence at scheduled hearings.

We have always stated that “Plan A” is to stop the privatisation of this highly profitable public asset and “Plan B” is to protect those that work in the industry through job protections and employment guarantees should the transaction proceed – this approach has not changed.

Prior to Christmas we wrote to Fred Nile seeking a meeting to which we received a response stating that he would be happy to meet with us following the election. We again wrote to Fred Nile immediately after the election to which we have not received a response. We have however commenced discussions with a range of MP’s both in Government and Opposition to discuss employment protections should the transaction proceed.

We will keep you up to date on any developments and provide additional information as it comes to hand.

In Unity - Steve Butler, Secretary.

Final AER determination 2014-19

- Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dear colleagues

The AER has today released their final determination outlining the amount of revenue the transmission and distribution networks can recover from their regulated asset base over the period 2014-2019.

Members will recall that management from some network companies decided to tie the AER determination to your future wages and the number of employees at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy, ActewAGL and TransGrid.

Neither of these matters – wages and employee numbers – is determined by the AER. This is a decision by your management to connect the two.

The AER determination sets out the amount that can be recovered by the network businesses from their “regulated asset base” among other matters. The AER determination does not limit the amount of income these businesses can generate from other sources including area’s such as contestable work.

The ETU commissioned experts to compile our own submissions to the AER outlining our concerns around the draft determination – a copy of our submissions can be found on the ETU website.

The AER has this morning released their final determination delivering cuts to revenue as follows:

  • Ausgrid – 33% less than that sought by the company
  • Endeavour Energy – 28% less than that sought by the company
  • Essential Energy – 31% less than that sought by the company
  • TransGrid – 25% less than that sought by the company
  • ActewAGL – 32% less than that sought by the company

The AER claim this determination will result in lower power prices however there is NO GUARANTEE OF LOWER PRICES given that the NSW Government deregulated retail electricity pricing in July 2014 meaning that and reduction will rely on the good will of electricity retailers.


The ETU believes there are alternatives to mass sackings and we believe that the approach taken by management is an excuse to, among other things, get rid of thousands of workers ahead of the NSW Government’s planned privatisation.

Following today’s AER determination management is already circulating notices about potential job losses. This should serve as a stark reminder of the importance of securing improved job protections, including no forced redundancies, in all future agreements.

Under existing agreements your employer cannot force anyone to take a redundancy and although Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy agreements have expired they continue to apply until a new agreement is struck.

To say we are disappointed with this outcome is a massive understatement. We are committed to identifying alternatives to job cuts including re-entry to contestable work, elimination of the executive bonus scheme, possible opportunities around the National Broadband Network, voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes and retraining/redeployment for any displaced employee.

We also hold particular concerns for current and future apprentices and their ability to secure full time ongoing employment. The ETU will fight to deliver a positive outcome on this front where ever possible.

The ETU will work with all stakeholders to minimise impacts on our members as we move forward. If you have any questions please contact your workplace delegate or ETU organiser.

Steve Butler

Incident Update: High Voltage Oil Insulated Fuse Switch Units

- Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Further to the ETU Notice issued on 11 February below is an update on the fatal incident that occurred in Western Australia on 3 February involving High Voltage Oil Insulated Fuse Switch Units.

Please read and understand the resolution carried by the NSW ETU State Council relating to this matter and subsequent bans relating to work on this equipment.

Click here for the latest WA EnergySafety media release and link to WA EnergySafety's preliminary findings and Work Orders.

All NSW ETU members should read the above information and be aware of the dangers this equipment may present. It is also important for all NSW ETU members to read and understand the resolution adopted by your state council as outlined below restricting work on oil insulated fuse switch units across NSW and the ACT.

Resolution on the Galleria Shopping centre incident on 3 February 2015 (Morley, WA) that resulted in two fatalities and seriously injured two others.

1. The ETU calls upon all employers and electrical safety regulators to conduct immediate safety audits in all workplaces where high voltage oil insulated fuse switch units are in operation; and

2. The NSW Branch of the ETU implements a live work ban on Long and Crawford / GEC / ALSTOM high voltage oil insulated fuse switch units (eg GF3, T4GF3 etc).

3. The NSW Branch of the ETU implement bans on any operating work (such as checking and/or changing of high voltage fuses in fuse switches of this type of equipment) without the high voltage feeder being de-energised into the fuse switch.

Further information is available below:

We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates for members.

ETU Submission to AER 2014-19 draft determination

- Friday, February 13, 2015

The ETU has been closely watching developments relating to the Australian Energy Regulator's (AER) draft determination which was first published in November 2014.

A full list of the draft determinations for each of the five NSW and ACT distribution and transmission networks can be found below:

Networks NSW were quick to link the draft determination with the current EBA negotiations and employment numbers however this is purely a decision of management. 

The AER's determination DOES NOT dictate future wage outcomes or employment numbers but rather determines the maximum amount of income that can be derived from the regulated asset base and does not include opportunities outside of the regulated asset base such as re-entering the contestable works market or other business opportunities that may exist.

Networks NSW issued a media release on 27 November stating that Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy would slash 4,600 jobs and put the future of 750 apprentices at risk as a direct result of management linking the AER draft determination with jobs. A copy of the Networks NSW media release can be accessed here.

The ETU has concerns about managements approach and we remain committed to fight for ETU members to secure improved job security moving forward.

In response to the AER draft determination the ETU commissioned experts through the McKell Institute to compile submissions in relation to the draft determinations for each of the NSW and ACT distribution and transmission businesses. This was done in the interest of ETU members while recognising that our members are important stakeholders in this process.

A full copy of the ETU's submissions to the AER for each of these companies can be found below:

The ETU is watching this space closely with the AER due to hand down their final ruling on 30 April 2015.

Delegates Meet to Develop Electricity Policy

- Monday, January 05, 2015

In mid December 70 power industry delegates representing the ETU, USU and Professionals Australia from Ausgrid, Endeavour energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid met to hear from experts in economics, the power industry and politics in order to discuss and develop an alternative electricity policy to the Liberals and Nationals privatisation plans.

The conference held over a full day on Saturday 13 December achieved a lot with delegates debating and endorsing a range of policy options that will see the NSW electricity sector reform but stay in public ownership.

Some of the experts that addressed the conference included Stephen Koukoulas, an economist and former economic advisor to a past Prime Minister and Dr Lynn e Chester a power industry expert and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney.

In addition to this representatives from Labor and the Greens addressed delegates. The Shooters and Fishers party were unable to make it due to prior commitments but did provide a letter to all delegates.

It is clear that the NSW electricity sector is facing major reforms. Delegates at the conference made the pragmatic decision to support reform, maintain public ownership and prepare our industry for future changes including storage devices and distributed generation.

Almost thirty resolutions were adopted unanimously by the delegates and these are not being developed into a comprehensive policy document that will be released in order to generate public debate about the alternatives to privatisation.

AER Draft Determination

- Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dear Colleagues.

Today the Australian Energy Regulator released their draft determination for the next regulatory period covering the 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2019.

This draft determination will effectively reduce the amount of money the network businesses can recoup from customers, in some cases by up to 60% on the previous period. This will have a massive flow through effect resulting in the network operators reducing their operating and capital expenditure budgets and in turn staff numbers.

I am gob smacked at the extent of the AER’s cuts and personally believe that the regulator has got it seriously wrong. I am even more gob smacked that your management finally agrees with the union on something.

As you would be aware this is a draft determination, with the final decision due in April next year. Regardless I think our members are smart enough to understand that this draft determination would need to change dramatically for it not to have a serious impact on jobs, safety and reliability.

Your union will be making a submission to the AER in relations to today’s draft decision. We will be highlighting that we believe the regulator’s cuts are too hard and too deep. Our aim is to minimise the number of job losses and draw a line in the sand when it comes to safety.

There is a lot of information to work through as a result of today’s announcement but we will aim to keep you updated on any developments. The ETU believes in a publicly owned, safe, reliable and efficiently run electricity network, but we will not stand idle when someone get it as wrong as the regulator has done today.

We will face some challenging times ahead and that is why it is so important that we stand together to secure the best possible outcome not only from the regulator but also from our current round of agreement negotiations as they will form the basis for job security moving forward.

The ETU is organising delegate’s meetings at Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy, actewAGL and Transgrid.

Yours in unity,

Steve Butler