Australian electricity unions suspend industrial action


Australian electricity unions suspend industrial action

Terry Cook

6 February 2018

On February 1, without calling any rank-and-file meetings, trade unions suddenly suspended a campaign of industrial action, for which workers at partly privatised electricity distributer Ausgrid had voted overwhelmingly last month.

Ausgrid operates the distribution network (poles and wires) providing power in Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast region of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW).

More than 93 percent of the 2,800 Ausgrid workers had endorsed the campaign, in a dispute over new enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs), during balloting that closed January 10.

In an anti-democratic operation, the unions involved —the Electrical Trades Unions (ETU), United Services Union, Community and Public Sector Union and Professionals Australia—used a meeting of around 100 workplace delegates to endorse the suspension of industrial action on the pretext of receiving a “revised” EBA offer from the company.

Following last month’s ballot results, the unions delayed taking any immediate action, claiming that the delegates meeting on January 31 would decide on the forms of industrial action to be taken. In reality, the purpose of the delay was to buy time to go back into closed-door negotiations to broker a sell-out deal that will pave the way for another round of “productivity increases” and “restructuring” and further cuts to jobs and conditions.

Significantly, the jettisoning of the power workers’ campaign followed a decision by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) to comply with a January 25 order issued by Fair Work Commission (FWC), the pro-business federal industrial tribunal, to call off all industrial action by 9,000 NSW rail workers in an EBA…

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