The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has been hauled before the Fair Work Commission in an attempt to terminate lawfully protected industrial action as workers fight to secure their jobs in the face of the imminent privatisation of the electricity network.
The NSW Treasurer has joined with state-owned power distributors Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy in applying to stop a planned 4-hour stoppage on 3 March 2015, even though the union has promised its members will still respond to all power outages, interruptions to supply, and emergency situations.
Greens MP and Industrial Relations Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“This anti-union action by the Treasurer and state-owned power companies is part of a sustained attack on workers’ rights, which are more needed than ever if we are to halt the privatisation agenda of the Coalition.
“The ETU and its members are exercising a perfectly legal and legitimate right to put pressure on their employers to make a fair bargain on wages and conditions.
“What is not legitimate is for the Treasurer to try to silence industrial action for political purposes.
“No doubt the Treasurer wants to screw down wages and conditions in the sector to maximise the future profits if his privatisation plans go ahead.
“The ETU is legitimately concerned about job losses with the spectre of privatisation hanging over them, and one of their concerns is maintaining their current condition of no forced redundancies.
“Unions like the ETU have a right to protest workers’ conditions, they’ve jumped through the right hoops and have given seven days’ notice instead of the usual three days, as agreed with the Fair Work Commission last month, so it’s unclear why the Minister has rushed to intervene.
“It seems a bit disingenuous to claim the strike would endanger public safety, when the ETU has committed to responding to outages and all emergencies.
“This isn’t about safety or convenience, this is all about maximising the sale price of these assets if the Treasurer can get the numbers in Parliament to sell them.