NSW Government

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.

Rifts over rate rises

A number of community members voiced their concern over Council’s proposed rate rises at last Wednesday’s community meeting.

By Lara Pearce

A number of community members voiced their concern over Council’s proposed rate rises at last Wednesday’s community meeting.

Among the most contentious were the water charges, which have already risen from $0.70/kl for the first 450kl in 2005/06 to $2.03/kl in this financial year. Next year, they will be $2.30/kl for the first 600kl used.

The Council says that these fees are necessary to cover the ongoing maintenance costs, which are higher than many neighbouring Councils due to the aging infrastructure and the distances that pipelines have to cover, due to the large distances between Lachlan Shire’s towns.

It also cites the development of a new water treatment plant for Condobolin, which has been costed at $10 million. The Council expects that the NSW Government will contribute $5 million.

“If the State Government contributes more than 50% of the project then there will hopefully be a levelling of water charges,” said John Chapman, Council’s Chief Financial Officer.

Council staff also noted that they are considering introducing a charge on Condobolin’s truck wash so ratepayers would not have to fund this service.

Condobolin nursery owner, Gary Venables, said that by increasing fees, he believes the Council could end up losing money as people will reduce their water usage.

“I consider that Council are walking down a false economy path,” he said. “If they believe that people are going to pay those new fees, I am here to tell that they won’t.”

“I am in a position both privately and business-wise to see that first hand.”

Maxine Staniforth presented a petition from a large number of community members, expressing their concern over the proposed water rates.

Concerns over the tip charges were also expressed, with rural residents noting that they already pay an annual waste management fee and do not have a curb side collection service.

One resident proposed that Council should include a number of free visits to the tip within the annual fee.

Lachlan Shire Council’s $7.4 million fitness test

How will Lachlan Shire Council make itself ‘fit for the future’? And what will this mean for the services it provides to its ratepayers?

By Lara Pearce

A number of community members voiced their concern over Council’s proposed rate rises at last Wednesday’s community meeting.

Among the most contentious were the water charges, which have already risen from $0.70/kl for the first 450kl in 2005/06 to $2.03/kl in this financial year. Next year, they will be $2.30/kl for the first 600kl used.

The Council says that these fees are necessary to cover the ongoing maintenance costs, which are higher than many neighbouring Councils due to the aging infrastructure and the distances that pipelines have to cover, due to the large distances between Lachlan Shire’s towns.

It also cites the development of a new water treatment plant for Condobolin, which has been costed at $10 million. The Council expects that the NSW Government will contribute $5 million.

“If the State Government contributes more than 50% of the project then there will hopefully be a levelling of water charges,” said John Chapman, Council’s Chief Financial Officer.

Council staff also noted that they are considering introducing a charge on Condobolin’s truck wash so ratepayers would not have to fund this service.

Condobolin nursery owner, Gary Venables, said that by increasing fees, he believes the Council could end up losing money as people will reduce their water usage.

“I consider that Council are walking down a false economy path,” he said. “If they believe that people are going to pay those new fees, I am here to tell that they won’t.”

“I am in a position both privately and business-wise to see that first hand.”

Maxine Staniforth presented a petition from a large number of community members, expressing their concern over the proposed water rates.

Concerns over the tip charges were also expressed, with rural residents noting that they already pay an annual waste management fee and do not have a curb side collection service.

One resident proposed that Council should include a number of free visits to the tip within the annual fee.

NSW Government backs Yellow Mountain mobile tower

A mobile phone and data tower for Yellow Mountain seems to be within reach, with the State Government pledging to match the Federal Government’s funding of $25 million for New South Wales.

• Minister for Western NSW Kevin Humphries met with local property owners Fred Colless and Roger Todd in Condobolin on Friday to confirm his support for a mobile phone and data tower at Yellow Mountain. LP

By Lara Pearce

A mobile phone and data tower for Yellow Mountain seems to be within reach, with the State Government pledging to match the Federal Government’s funding of $25 million for New South Wales.

A week out from the NSW election, Kevin Humphries met with the key drivers behind the tower, local property owners Roger Todd and Fred Colless, last Friday. He says Yellow Mountain is his top priority for the Mobile Black Spots programme.

“There are probably about three or four in my area but this has always been the main one here,” he said. “It is my number one priority and it is also [Federal Member for Parkes] Mark Coulton’s.”

Yellow Mountain, which is 70 kilometres directly north west of Condobolin, reaches 547m metres above sea level.

Nearby property owner Roger Todd says it is an ideal location for a tower, as there is already a tower there for landlines and power. “We have got the solid infrastructure there so we have already got the bones,” he said.

Roger and Fred believe that, due to Yellow Mountain’s height, the tower would provide mobile phone reception within about a 40 kilometre radius on hand held devices and further with car kits. “The fringes of the black spot will be shady but that’s when you go and put your repeaters up there,” Roger said.

With repeaters in place, they believe they will be able to link up Tottenham, Nyngan, Condobolin, Nymagee and Euabalong West, effectively filling one of the largest black spots in New South Wales.

Combined State and Federal Government funding pledges would provide $50 million for towers across New South Wales, with the Yellow Mountain tower expected to cost in the order of $500,000.

“These guys want to get into data, so that is much higher cost because it means you have got to entrench cable over a reasonable amount of distance,” Mr Humphries explained.

However, the local community are adamant that data is a must, both for on-farm safety and for the economic development of the region.

“There are not enough younger people coming home to the farm,” said Fred. “And why would they? They are just used to all those technological conveniences.”

Roger Todd is also keen to get data, noting that it would speed up service for the wider region by taking some of the load off the Condobolin tower.

“It is our time,” he said. “I just went from one end of Vietnam to the other and didn’t lose mobile service once. I saw a guy walking his bullock down the road on the phone.

“We’ve got all our machines steering themselves, but I can’t send a text message.”

NSW Govt to shore up Condo’s water supply

The NSW State Government has pledged almost $4 million in funding for Condobolin’s town water supply.

• Lachlan Shire Mayor Des Manwaring accepting a cheque for $3,900,000 from Minister for Water, Kevin Humphries. LP

By Lara Pearce

The NSW State Government has pledged almost $4 million in funding for Condobolin’s town water supply.

Minister for Water, Kevin Humphries, was in Condobolin on Monday, where he presented Lachlan Shire Mayor, Des Manwaring, with a cheque for $3,900,000. The money will be used to build three new bores to ensure Condobolin’s water supply during future dry periods.

The Mayor gratefully accepted the cheque. “We have a bore close to town but it only produces about a [megalitre] a day,” Clr Manwaring explained. “A few years ago, the river actually stopped running and that created a lot of problems.”

This is the first stage of a $12.2 million water supply project for the town.

“This project will help to improve economic growth and productivity in the region,” Mr Humphries said.

“Condobolin has had a long history of water restrictions. The new bores […] will complement the existing water supply from Goobang Creek.”

“Water is the lifeblood of our regional communities.”

The long-term goal is to extend the pipeline to link up with the regional network supplying towns in the Lachlan river system, if a sufficient amount of water is discovered.

The money is part of the NSW Government’s $366 million Water Security for Regions fund.

Local Government Areas of Walgett, Cobar and Brewarrina also received State Government funding boosts on Monday.

The Mayor of Cobar Lilliane Brady received just over $1 million. The Mayor of Brewarrina, Angelo Pippos, accepted a cheque for $320,000 for emergency water backup, and the Mayor of Walgett, David Lane, received just under $2 million for regional roads.

Mr Humphries noted that the road developments would also have flow-on benefits for the Lachlan Shire in facilitating the more efficient transport of goods.

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