Ausgrid workers have voted to strike after more than three years of pay freezes.
Workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of carrying out industrial action, after three and a half years of protracted negotiations – with two different owners – failed to reach a workplace agreement.
The stop work action could commence as soon as the second week of February, a period which is typically when the power grid is under its greatest strain.
The original agreements expired in December 2014, at a time when Ausgrid was still owned by the New South Wales state government, and since then workers have been in a pay freeze.
Ausgrid was then acquired by a consortium of super funds, IFM Investors and AustralianSuper.
More than 93 per cent of close to 3000 Ausgrid workers, across four different unions, voted to take industrial action, such as work stoppages and callouts.
This may have major impacts during the hotter February period when the power distribution network is under increased stress and prone to failure and blackouts.
Electrical Trade Union organiser Mark Buttigieg told Fairfax Media said Ausgrid workers were fed up with the inaction.
“If you look at the voting results you can see there’s a high degree of frustration pent up,” Mr Buttigieg said.
An Ausgrid spokeswoman told Fairfax Media they want unions to come back to the table.
“We are disappointed at the proposed union action and ask the unions to continue to bargain in good faith, as we have done for the past year. We believe we have achieved in principle agreement on virtually all of our proposal,” she said.
Workers have asked for three per cent annual pay raise, stating that during the time of the pay freeze productivity increased up 64 per cent.
Ausgrid’s proposed Enterprise Agreement would provide wage increases over the next three years of 2.5 per cent for the first two years, and 2 per cent in the third, plus a payment of $1000 for each employee.
The spokeswoman also rejected union claims of increased productivity.
“The Australian Energy Regulator’s recent benchmarking report found Ausgrid’s productivity to be among the lowest in the energy sector and the new agreement would realise greater productivity and ensure success and sustainability in the new energy market.”
Mr Buttigieg said workers are still hopeful of working towards an agreement.
“We still prefer to have a negotiated outcome, but we’re done talking now, and the ball is in Ausgrid’s court.”
“If you think this is a bluff, or that we will take substandard outcomes, think again because we will take action,” Mr Buttigieg said.
Workers will decide on what specific actions to take on January 31.
Ausgrid controls and maintains the energy distribution network – the poles and wires – for Sydney, the Hunter, Newcastle, and the Central Coast.
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