News : Union Fury at New Job Cuts by Industry Super Funds
Sydney, Australia, Sept, 2017 -- Unions have threatened to dramatically escalate their campaign against two industry superannuation funds after electricity distributor Ausgrid embarked on a new round of job cuts.
Weeks after outsourcing jobs to India, Ausgrid, which is majority controlled by Australian Super and IFM Investors, revealed it was closing a call centre and axing 25 per cent of staff who respond when faults, emergencies, fires and storms cut power supplies
Former ACTU secretary Dave Oliver is deputy chair of Australian Super and former Labor minister, Greg Combet, who is also a former ACTU secretary, is deputy chair of IFM Investors. Union leaders Daniel Walton and Paul Bastian are on the Australian Super board.
New South Wales Electrical Trades Union secretary Dave McKinley, on Monday warned unions were preparing to significantly intensify their campaign against Ausgrid.
Mr McKinley said Ausgrid claimed they had to cut jobs to reduce power prices, but 2144 full-time jobs had been lost since 2011 and power prices had gone up.
"What is most extraordinary is that these attacks on working people are being perpetrated by a company majority-owned by industry super funds,’’ he told The Australian.
"These cuts are not just bad for workers, they’re bad for consumers.
"You can’t axe a quarter of the people who provide the first point of contact during emergencies and power outages without it leading to poorer service and slower response times.
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"If things don’t change at Ausgrid, and change soon, Australian Super, IFM Investors and Ausgrid management can expect to see a major escalation in industrial activity as workers fight back against these repeated attacks."
In the latest cuts, Ausgrid management told one quarter of staff at their customer contact centres — 11 out of 44 positions — were redundant. The call centre in Sydney will also be closed, with only one centre remaining in Newcastle.
Due to a job protection guarantee put in place by the NSW Government ahead of last year’s privatisation, Ausgrid is unable to make the workers forcibly redundant.
The union said the workers are required to sit in a room by themselves from 9am to 5pm each day until they accepted a voluntary redundancy. As they no longer worked evenings or weekends, they were not entitled to shift allowances, cutting their take home pay by 30 per cent.
"Ausgrid are trying to game the job guarantees that were put in place by Fred Nile and the NSW Government ahead of privatisation,’’ Mr McKinley said.
"Even worse, is that Ausgrid, owned by industry super funds, are not only telling these workers they no longer have a substantive job but are also attempting to cut their pay by a third unless they accept a ‘voluntary’ redundancy.
"The ETU has been forced to take action in the Fair Work Commission to protect these workers’ wages but Ausgrid is fighting this in order to cut these workers take home pay."
An Ausgrid spokesman said the company was going through a period of significant change as it built a more efficient and cost effective business to keep prices for customers as low as possible.
"As part of a review of our contact centre team, 11 roles were identified as being surplus to requirements,’’ the spokesman said.
He said three of the 11 workers had expressed interest in accepting a "generous" voluntary redundancy offer.
"We understand these changes can be challenging for our staff and we are supporting them by providing them with the skills to cope with ongoing change and transition to new roles,’’ he said.
"Some of the affected staff have requested they continue to be paid shift allowances despite no longer having to work evenings or weekends.
"Unions have raised the matter with the Fair Work Commission and Ausgrid has agreed to continue to pay shift payments while this matter is in dispute."
National union leaders will be urged to condemn the conduct of Australian Super and IFM Investors at a meeting of the ACTU executive next month.
The move came after Ausgrid outsourced 35 jobs to an Indian consortium and compelled some of the affected Australian workers to go to India to train their foreign replacements.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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