Ausnet drags the chain in EBA talks

Two of the big players in the power contracting industry have now agreed to new four-year agreements, with great outcomes achieved for our members at Jemena and Citipower/Powercor. But talks with AusNet are continuing, as organiser Justin Sordello explains.

After multiple negotiation meetings, AusNet finally placed its counter claims on the table after a laughable offer of a rollover with a wage increase of 3% per year over three years.

No consideration was given to the issues around job security and contractors that had been overwhelmingly raised by members. AusNet’s offer was unanimously rejected by shop stewards.

AusNet’s claims show their intent to dilute job security, destroy hard-won work/life balance, undermine the industry through single-man work and enabling contractors that encourage bad work practices – undermining trade and industry standards.

Their claims are as follows:

  • Managers must sign off on work exceeding 7.2 hours a day, therefore giving AusNet the ability to stop any RDO hours accruing.
  • Management can direct employees to take RDOs with no notice if there is not enough work or if inclement weather causes jobs to be cancelled.
  • Clauses that set out default start/finish times will be deleted, effectively giving AusNet the ability to direct employees to start work at staggered times.
  • Employees’ ability to accrue TOIL days will be removed.
  • Rest breaks and how they operate will be changed.
  • The qualifying period for a 10-hour break will be changed from three hours worked to four hours worked.
  • AusNet will have the ability to change how the after-hours availability roster operates and to alter rosters as they please without consultation or agreement with those affected.
  • Meal break payments after two hours will be removed. AusNet seeks it be paid after four hours and only on unplanned work.
  • LAHA and how it operates will be changed. Renamed ‘distant work allowance’, it will now include the requirement that all employees undertake distant work should AusNet require them to.
  • New words for single-person work will be introduced that will enable AusNet to force employees to work in high-risk situations on their own.
  • Relocation allowance will be changed to reduce the rate from $0.36 to $0.11 and only apply for a move that is more than 60 minutes from the employee’s home.
  • Changes to the adverse weather clause will require employees to work in adverse weather conditions. The heat ceiling will be moved from 36°C to 38°C.
  • Changes to the workforce size clause will, in effect, remove the requirement on AusNet to seek volunteers for redundancy before moving to forced redundancies. AusNet also seeks to make it easier for the business to make redundancies.
  • All union recognition, including the right to elected representatives, will be removed. The right to meet with shop stewards to discuss issues will also be removed.
These claims clearly show that AusNet wants to dilute and delete hard-won terms and conditions. They show that AusNet is seeking to undermine job security, health and safety and work/life balance. We will continue to fight against these changes and to achieve the safeguards and changes that the rest of the industry now has, and that our members need to ensure their job security.

This article is from the Autumn 2017 issue of the ETU's members magazine. You can read the digital edition here.