The Wonthaggi Desal project was the ETU’s largest ever and now, as it nears completion, Assistant Secretary, Troy Gray, looks back at the achievements of the members who worked on it and moved into the local community for the duration of the project.
It’s going to be pretty much wound up by the end of the year and it’s fair to say that it’s been a historic project and a very good project for our membership.
The original estimates were that about 500 electricians would be needed to build the project and we ended up with 920.
We knew from the outset that it was going to be a three-year project and many of our members have enjoyed some of the best wages and conditions in the country while working there.
And to their credit, the project manager John Barraclough — who also oversaw the building of the Sydney desal plant — recently said to me he’s never been associated with a project that has had such a high level of electrical work performed there.
He said that he was amazed to find out how little fault there was when it came to the actual commissioning of the project and that it was unprecedented in the forty years that he’s worked in the construction industry, so that’s a credit to our workers.
But of course it’s also been a very tough job, with a lot of negativity in the media because of its political nature. But ETU members and the union can stand proud that three years down the track, the Wonthaggi Desal project has been built in good time and to exacting standards.
It should also be pointed out that while the money was good, the majority of people who worked in Wonthaggi had to move there from home, and effectively had to keep two households running.
So when people say it’s good money it’s important to actually look in detail at what goes on in these big projects.
You’re out of work usually three to six months before the project starts and you’re out of work three to six months after it ends.
And while you’re working, you’ve got to live away from your family and run two households, so it makes sense for the member to be suitably reimbursed for all his extra expenses.
So all in all it’s been a terrific job and ETU members have done themselves and their union absolutely proud down there.
Not only has it been good for the members, it’s also been good for the local community, which has received everything from defibrillators for footy and netball clubs, to play equipment for kindergartens.
These are initiatives of ETU members on the job to put something back into the community.