Electricity workers vote for industrial action

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Professionals Australia (PA) members at Essential Energy, the state-owned New South Wales electricity distribution company, have overwhelmingly voted to take industrial action against management attacks on jobs and conditions. The current enterprise agreement expired last June

The ballot was held as the company applied, last month, to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for the termination of existing work agreements covering thousands of its employees. A full bench of the FWC will start hearing the case on June 14, 2016.

Almost all Essential Energy employees voted to strike for up to 72 hours and endorsed a range of industrial bans, including limitations on overtime, training, processing paperwork and use of a range of work essential technologies.

The move comes as the NSW Government-owned company undertakes legal action on workers, seeking to terminate a range of agreements and policies. The company has also proposed a new workplace agreement that would allow the immediate sacking of 800 regional employees, as well as an unlimited number of job cuts after June 2018. Last year, the company said it planned to axe nearly 1400 jobs.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the company was refusing to budge from their proposal that staff accept a two-year wage freeze, a ban on redundant employees applying for other jobs with the company for two years, a halving of the payment when workers are called in from home to emergencies, and the removal of requirements for private contractors conducting outsourced work to pay appropriate wages and conditions.

Essential Energy, which services regional and rural areas across NSW, is the only one of the three remaining state-owned electricity network companies that will, for now, remain in government hands.