Ausgrid staff plan stop-work over Hunter cuts

AUSGRID workers have formally given notice of a four-hour work stoppage nextTuesday as part of workplace negotiations.

The Electrical Trades Union said Hunter workers pushed for the March 3 industrial action over concerns stemming from a workplace agreementthe union argues would protect jobs in the region being rejected by the company’s management.

The union claims that up to 572 jobs could be lost in the Hunter if cuts mooted in late 2014 were spread equally among NSW depots.

That would result in a 44 per cent cut to the Hunter’s workforce comprising 431 job losses at Wallsend, 24 in Cessnock, 30 in Maitland and 87 in the Upper Hunter.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said workers’ offer to accept a 2.5 per cent pay rise and retain existing provisions was rejected.

“Local power workers were left with no choice but to take this action after the Baird Government and management at Ausgrid refused to agree to maintaining existing job protections including no forced redundancies,” ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

“Industrial action is an absolute last resort, but faced with the Liberal’s privatisation plans, and warnings of massive job cuts from Networks NSW, local workers feel it is the only option they have available.’’

Mr Butler said a formal notice had been lodged with Ausgrid, notifying the company that staff from Newcastle, the wider Hunter, Central Coast and Sydney would stop work for four hours.

“This industrial action is not about inconveniencing the general public, it is about ensuring the government and management provide job security ahead of the Baird Government’s electricity privatisation,’’ Mr Butler said.

“Our members will respond to all blackouts and supply interruptions on this occasion, regardless of circumstances, to ensure consumers are not caught in the middle of this escalating dispute.”

An Ausgrid spokeswoman said the company did not support industrial action, noting the union’s comments that workers would respond to major incidents to protect customers.

“Ausgrid has engaged in good faith bargaining over new enterprise agreements for our workers, so the unions’ decision to stop work on March 3 is disappointing,” she said.

“We want to secure jobs for our employees while delivering efficiencies to keep downward pressure on electricity prices for families and businesses.”

“But we cannot resolve union demands until we know our final revenue to be approved by the Australian Energy Regulator in April 2015.”

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