Ugly industrial action dispute delays Cyclone Seroja clean up
FIRST ON 6PR
The Electrical Trades Union in NSW told workers NOT to volunteer to travel to WA to help rebuild the Mid West’s cyclone-ravaged electricity network as part of an ongoing industrial dispute between the union and Western Power.
Western Power claims that industrial action by the union has delayed the reconnection of some customers who have been left without power for weeks after the cyclone smashed through the area last month.
One of the sticking points in negotiating a new industrial agreement is a union demand to be paid extra when linemen are working in temperatures above 34 degrees or intermittent rain.
Western Power’s manager of asset operations Sam Barbaro said the utility would not agree to the clause, which would encourage some workers to work in extreme conditions for extra pay.
“To me that sends the exact wrong message, if we are working in conditions which are too hot, or which are too wet or slippery, then we always encourage our crews to stop work,” he told 6PR’s Gareth Parker.
“I think when you start to pay people a bonus or an allowance to work in those conditions you start to send the wrong message.”
The extra pay would cost at least an extra $40 million a year, which will ultimately go to household power bills.
“We have done some rough modelling on average rainfalls and temperatures and it is probably around $20,000 per employee per annum,” he said.
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The union denies it has held up the restoration of power but says the extra pay is fair and did not apologise for the volunteer work ban.
Assistant state secretary of the Electrical Trade Union Brendon Reeve said the dispute isn’t about money.
“We haven’t asked for a wage increase at all, we have asked for the problems to be fixed.”
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(Photo: Nine News.)