The Fair Work Commission today approved a ballot, which if supported, will allow workers at power companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy to take protected industrial in pursuit of reaching new workplace agreements including important job protections.
At a hearing on Friday the companies chose not to challenge or stop workers from seeking a ballot but simply requested that seven days’ notice be given prior to any action being taken should the ballot be successful.
Orders issued by the Fair Work Commission Monday night state that a postal ballot will be conducted which is expected to be concluded by mid-February. To be successful the ballot will need at least 50% of eligible workers to vote and of this at least 50% to support taking action.
The Fair Work Commission also stipulated that notice of seven working days must be given prior to any action occurring.
Unions representing workers at Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have said that this action, if supported, is a last resort and designed to impact the companies, not the general public.
“While workers will vote on action – ranging from not using mobile phones after hours to refusing to disconnect customers that don’t pay their bill to work stoppages – this does not mean that all of this action will be taken it just means that they exist as options.” said Electrical Trades Union Secretary Steve Butler.
“Our action is designed to impact the companies in an effort to bring enough pressure to resolve the deadlock that we find ourselves in by delivering greater job security at a time when thousands of jobs are at risk.” Mr Butler said.
“Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have indicated that they intend to sack more than three thousand power workers, including apprentices, over the next year and the NSW Government is pushing ahead with electricity privatisation which is why we must achieve greater job security for workers in this industry.”
“We are not asking for an unreasonable outcome, all these workers want is a secure job that maintains existing conditions and provides a fair pay rise that stays ahead of inflation which is currently running at 2.5%” Mr Butler said.
“The Premier himself has said there will be no forced redundancies in the power industry as a result of his electricity privatisation plans so we are at odds as to why Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy are refusing to include the Premier’s guarantee in new workplace agreements.”
“The only thing we can conclude is that the Premier is telling the public and power workers one thing – that these jobs are safe – and telling management the opposite in order to maximise the value of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy in preparation for privatisation.”
“We are happy to discuss our concerns with the Government or management in order to reach an agreement, the ball is in their court and either could resolve this issue today.” said Mr Butler.
Unions are expecting Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy to overplay the impacts of any industrial action in an attempt to try and scare the public.
“Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy will no doubt over play possible impacts by saying that power supplies to hospitals and people on life support and other medical devices will be at risk but this is nothing more than scare mongering.” said Scott McNamara, Energy Manager with the United Services Union.
“Power workers and the unions will take a responsible approach to our action and aim to minimise any impact to infrastructure including hospitals, water and sewerage and people that rely on medical devices such as ventilators.” said Mr McNamara.
“Power workers perform dangerous work often in treacherous conditions to make sure the public is always looked after, all these workers want is a fair deal and for this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible.” Mr McNamara said.