Essential Energy

Essential to vote No

By Melissa Blewitt

Essential Energy workers from Condobolin, Lake Cargelligo, Tottenham and Trundle are being urged to “vote no” in a ballot for a new workplace agreement.
Unions are accusing management at the NSW Government owned electricity distributor of trying to avoid the matter being determined by the independent industrial umpire.
Unions have warned that the management initiated ballot, if successful, would result in a cut to real wages and massive regional job losses. The electronic voting process began on Saturday, 4 June, and closes at 5pm on Thursday, 9 June.
The management proposal offers a single 2.5 per cent pay increase over three years in return for workers agreeing to allow potentially unlimited redundancies, along with cuts to employment conditions, reduced consultation over future changes, and cuts to take home pay.
The Electrical Trades Union, United Services Union and Professional Australia, which represent Essential Energy employees, said the ballot was a last ditch effort by management to avoid having the Fair Work Commission determine the outcome of the long running dispute.
“Last week, the Fair Work Commission triggered a 21 day bargaining period that will be followed by automatic arbitration if no agreement is reached between the company and its employees,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.
“That decision was welcomed by unions as it potentially takes the decision making process out of management’s hands, allowing for independent assessment of the case by the industrial umpire which would then hand down a binding decision.
“After refusing to budge for 18 months, management has decided to have one final crack at getting their antiworker agenda through in the form of this management initiated ballot.”
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said power industry unions were urging workers to make sure they vote over the coming days, ensuring a clear rejection of this attempt to cut jobs and employment conditions.
“We are urging our members to make sure that they vote, that they vote no, and that they encourage their colleagues to do the same,” he said.
“We believe it is in the interest of Essential Energy workers to overwhelmingly reject this offer and instead allow the independent umpire to decide the outcome through arbitration.
“In 18 months of negotiations, Essential Energy management have refused to budge on their determination to slash hundreds of regional jobs and cut conditions that were fought for and won by previous generations.
“Essential Energy management, at the bidding of their masters in the Baird Government, continue to push for a workplace arrangement that will allow them to slash regional jobs and cut the quality of services available to power consumers.”

Commission halts industrial action by Essential Energy staff

By Melissa Blewitt

A planned 80-hour strike across the Essential Energy network has been averted.
Condobolin, Lake Cargelligo, Tottenham and Trundle depots were to be part of the strike.
The industrial action, which was to begin on Monday, 23 May, was halted after the Fair Work Commisison ordered the company into a 21-day bargaining period with the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).
Lawyers for the NSW Government owned electricity network operator had been attempting to have the industrial umpire suspend the period of protected industrial action, which would have prevented the strike but allowed management to continue their attacks on the wages and conditions of workers.
The ETU argued that the FWC should instead take the other course of action available — the termination of the protected action period. This would automatically trigger a three week bargaining period and arbitration of the dispute by the independent umpire if required.
The Commission agreed with the union, ordering a halt to the strike action that was due to commence at 10pm on Monday, 23 May, and a commencement of the 21 day bargaining period which, if unsuccessful, will allow the independent umpire to resolve the dispute by deciding all outstanding matters.
ETU secretary Steve Butler said the decision was the best outcome available to the union to finally bring an end to the longrunning dispute over Essential Energy’s attempts to immediately cut 800 regional jobs, as well as reduce wages and conditions for the remaining workers.
“Essential Energy management have been unwilling to budge despite more than a year of negotiations, making it almost impossible to reach an agreement,” he said.
“This ruling is the best possible outcome for workers because it not only forces the company to sit down and negotiate in good faith, but it also means that if no agreement is reached in the next three weeks the Fair Work Commission will take the decision process out of management’s hands.
“Arbitration means the union will be able to put its case to the independent umpire who will then make a final decision that Essential Energy management are legally bound by.”
Mr Butler has written to ETU members explaining the decision, and urging them to vote against a proposed agreement being put forward by management.
“The union will now focus on advancing the strongest possible arguments to minimise any impact on workers and deliver an outcome that is much fairer than what management have proposed,” he said.
Essential Energy Acting Chief Executive Officer, Gary Humphreys, said: “Essential Energy will always put the safety of our employees, contractors and the public above anything else so we are pleased that the Fair Work Commission has shut down the protected industrial action proposed by the ETU.” The application was heard over six hours.

Essential Energy go on strike to protect jobs.

By Melissa Blewitt

Condobolin Essential Energy workers will participate in unprecedented strike action from Monday, 23 May.
They will walk off the job in an attempt to bring an end to a long-running industrial dispute with management at the company.
Workers from Lake Cargelligo, Tottenham and Trundle depots will also join in the strike.
More than 120 workplaces, depots and control rooms are impacted by the stoppage.
Unlike previous stoppages, the union will not provide a skeleton staff during the stop work period, meaning management will need to resolve this dispute or make alternative arrangements.
The Electrical Trade Union (ETU) formally served notice of the protected industrial action last Wednesday 11 May, which will consist of twenty consecutive four hour stoppages commencing at 10pm on Monday 23 May and concluding at 6am on Friday 27 May.
ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said workers had endorsed the major escalation of industrial action in a lastditch attempt to resolve the dispute over a new workplace agreement, which has now dragged on for more than 18 months.
“For 18 months, Essential Energy management have refused to come to an agreement, have rejected a range of generous concessions from the union, have refused to allow the industrial umpire to intervene, have put forward a proposal that would see the immediate slashing of 800 regional jobs, and have launched unprecedented legal action to cut our members’ pay and conditions,” he said.
“That sort of aggressive, autocratic management — where workers are told they have no choice but to accept massive cuts to jobs, services, pay, and conditions — has no place in a modern Australian workplace and is completely unacceptable to our members.
“Rather than allow this dispute to continue to drag on for months or even years, union members have decided to bring it to a head with an unprecedented escalation of strike action that will see them walk out of more than 120 workplaces for a total of 80 hours later this month.
“Unfortunately, this means the stoppage may impact on electricity services for some in the community, but customers can blame management and the NSW Government for their lack of will to resolve this matter.”

Tackling speeding issues

Essential Energy crews from across the Parkes, Forbes, Lachlan, Orange and Cabonne local government areas are the first in the region to participate in a new road safety workshop tackling speed on the Henry Parkes and Escort Ways.

The workshops are one of the key strategies of the regional ‘Like the back of your hand’ project which was launched in Manildra in June.

Parkes, Forbes and Lachlan Shire Councils’ Road Safety and Injury Prevention Officer, Melanie Suitor, says the workshops were designed to provide important information about the dangers of speeding.

“We are really pleased that Essential Energy is the first business in the region to sign up their employees for these free road safety workshops.

“Workshops will be conducted with Essential Energy employees at Orange, Canowindra, Molong, Parkes, Forbes, Condobolin, Peak Hill, Tottenham, Trundle and Lake Cargelligo depots.

“In the past five years there have been nearly 150 crashes on the road between Condobolin, Parkes and Orange. Six people have been killed and 60 have been injured. The majority of drivers who crashed were local residents or lived in a neighbouring town. All of the crashes had speed listed as a contributing factor.

“These interactive workshops outline the various issues associated with speeding which impact on all drivers who use the Henry Parkes and Escort Ways. The workshop runs for about 30 minutes and participants are encouraged to complete a quiz which enters them into the draw for a $50 fuel voucher and gives us feedback on what they learnt.

“A copy of all workshop materials will be provided to participating business for use in future staff training and staff inductions.

“We have sent invitations to the larger businesses in the local community to also take part in the workshops. If you haven’t received an invitation but would like to host a workshop at your business please contact me on 6861 2364,” Ms Suitor said.

Essential Energy’s regional general manager, Central Western, Chas MacPhail said Essential Energy is a strong supporter of the Like the back of your hand program and was happy for the regions depot crews to participate in the road safety workshops.

“Essential Energy covers 95% of New South Wales and has over 4000 employees which results in quite a large fleet that last year alone travelled approximately 7 million kilometers, some of that on the Henry Parkes and Escort ways.

“Essential Energy’s number one priority is safety – safety of the public, our employees and the network – so involving our employees in these workshops enhances our already very strong safety culture,” Mr McPhail said.

Other project strategies include; the use of courtesy speed monitor trailers, radio advertising, a radio competition, the distribution of brochures/posters to doctor’s surgeries, roadside banners and regular media coverage.

The Like the back of your hand project is a collaboration between five regional councils along or bordering the Henry Parkes and Escort Ways, including Orange City Council, Cabonne Shire Council, Parkes Shire Council, Forbes Shire Council and Lachlan Shire Council.

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