Western Power is prepared for industrial action by the Communications, Electrical & Plumbing Union (CEPU) which commenced this week, with measures in place to minimise any potential impact to the community.
Western Power Executive Manager Asset Operations Sam Barbaro said that while Western Power respects the rights of employees to take industrial action, it was extremely disappointed by the CEPU’s decision to hold a series of partial work bans and work stoppages.
“We’ve been negotiating in good faith with the CEPU for almost a year and our focus has always been on reaching an enterprise agreement that is fair and reasonable for our employees and in line with community expectations, industry standards and the current State Wages Policy,” he said.
“The union’s decision to take industrial action will have detrimental consequences for the community as it will not only affect planned maintenance and project work, it may also delay fault repairs and restoring power.
“We’ve put measures in place to limit the impact and to support all employees in our daily operations who are inadvertently affected by these bans.
“We assure the community, in particular those homes and businesses affected by cyclone Seroja, that we’re taking whatever steps we can to ensure that the significant recovery work being done continues. However, as the union will not provide an undertaking that this work will not be affected, we can’t guarantee there won’t be delays to restoration.”
“There are around 720 homes and businesses remaining without power and there are around 500 poles still to repair, so we’re hoping that this industrial action doesn’t unnecessarily prolong the reconnection of these customers who’ve now been without power for four weeks.”
We remain open to further meetings with the union. However, Western Power considers that the nature and the magnitude of the CEPU claims are not in line with industry standards or community expectations. Western Power’s position has always been consistent with the State Public Sector Wages Policy, which allows for an annual wage increase of $1,000 per employee.
Western Power’s response to any industrial action will be conducted in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009. This can include employees being locked out if they engage in work bans or if their work duties are affected by such bans. We are also legally obligated by the Act to dock employee pay where they participate in industrial action.
In mid-2020, Western Power began negotiations with the CEPU for a replacement enterprise agreement that will cover around 800 of our operational employees.
In December 2020 and April 2021, the CEPU applied for, and was granted, a protected action ballot order (PABO) by the Fair Work Commission. The subsequent ballot for eligible employees to vote on whether they want the right to take certain types of industrial action was successful, enabling members to take certain types of industrial action, ranging from partial to full work bans, provided at least five days’ written notice is given.
Western Power’s offer to employees to be covered by the CEPU EA is fair and in line with, if not better than, industry standards including wage increases of $1,000 per year.
Additional new benefits include two extra days paid leave per year known as ‘wellness days’; 10 minute paid ‘tea’ break per day; electrical license allowance of $27.33 per week; mechanical allowance increase to $40 per fortnight and paid meal breaks during emergency events, improvements to the availability allowance; higher duties pay after one day instead of two; and a commitment to retain apprentices who complete apprenticeship before 31 August 2022 for two years post-apprenticeship.