Power industry workers are seeking greater job security and a wage rise that analysts say could devalue the Baird government’s proposed sale of the state’s distribution and transmission network.
The Electrical Trades Union is seeking a 4 per cent wage rise, which, based on the McKell Institute’s economic modelling, would add $5.27 or 10¢ a week to the average power bill.
ETU secretary Steve Butler said the union was also trying to negotiate greater security for workers on an average salary of $78,878 ahead of the government’s planned privatisation of the Ausgrid “poles and wires”. The union wants redundancy entitlements of three weeks per year of service in the company policy to be formally included in an enterprise agreement.
“These job security measures have zero cost impact but provide workers and their families with certainty and security,” Mr Butler said.
“Given the government wants to privatise Ausgrid, we are hoping that the Premier and management will take this into consideration during negotiations and offer workers greater job security.”
UBS utilities analyst David Leitch said any contractual obligations for higher costs will reduce the value of the asset.
“If the company can demonstrate that the wage outcomes are fair and they have done their best effort to control them, you can normally recover those through the regulatory process in prices,” he said.
“But I can’t see the regulator or any reasonable person allowing a regulated business to recover costs that are just part of its normal sale process. Why should ETU people get greater job security than workers at BHP or a coalmine?”
A spokesman for Energy and Resources Minister Anthony Roberts said Networks NSW understands job security is important for employees and containing electricity price increases is important for households and businesses.
“While Networks NSW is in the early stages of the good faith bargaining process, Ausgrid has offered a three-year agreement without forced redundancy in recognition of employee concerns around job security,” he said.
“Networks NSW is committed to delivering on its promise to customers that it will contain increases in its share of electricity bills to less than CPI for the next five years. All costs, including labour, must be held to CPI or less to deliver on the promise to the state’s households and small businesses.
“Networks NSW has explained to the unions that one of the most important ways to secure jobs is to safely improve the productivity and competitiveness of the enterprise agreement.”
Staff at Sydney Ferries negotiated a one-off bonus of up to 30 weeks’ pay for going to work for a private operator that started running the ferries in 2011.
The offer included a provision for no compulsory redundancies for at least two years under the private operator and a 3.25 per cent annual pay rise for two years.