Electrical Trades Union accuses Palaszczuk Government of selling out workers
Summary: MILITANT union members have accused the Palaszczuk Government of selling out workers and trying to privatise the electricity industry “by stealth”.....
The grass-roots campaign in the Electrical Trades Union could spill on to the doorstep of State Parliament today just as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attempts to deliver her budget.
ETU members are planning to march on parliament to vent their frustration directly to the Labor Government, which it has recently campaigned with heavily, especially to fight electricity privatisation.
ETU acting state secretary Peter Ong told The Courier-Mail that many of the union’s 12,500 members were increasingly agitated over pay, conditions and safety at solar farm projects around the state and construction of a new football stadium in Townsville.
“They’ve got the shits with all the work that we’ve done for this Government and a few basics that we’ve asked for seem to be too hard, which is just fair rates of pay and conditions for our members,” he said.
He said private companies building up to 17 new wind farms in Queensland were using loopholes to employ backpackers to do licensed electrical work under the guise of being under “direct supervision”.
“What they’re getting is 20 or 30 backpackers to pull cables or install cable in to boxes with one licensed electrician that may or may not be there, supervising all of them,” he said.
“What they end up with, out of a work force of 100, they might have 10 licensed electricians and 90 unskilled backpackers so they can save a lot of money.”
He said there were obvious safety concerns about when the power grid was eventually hooked up as there had already been incidents including fires that had broken out when power links were energised.
“Whether this could be directed straight back to unlicensed people doing licensed work, I can’t prove that at the moment but we’re certainly digging in to it,” he said.
He said the government should be investing in the ownership of solar farms so it could influence wages and conditions for workers because members “fought long and hard” to avoid privatisation in the electricity industry.
“They’re concerned that with the government’s push to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 that it will mean we’re going to have 50 per cent of our electricity assets privatised by stealth,” he said.
“That’s a real concern to our members when you think that they spent three years opposing privatisation… and this government was basically installed on the back of that campaign.
“It’s a bit of kick in the guts for our members to now see that the government’s not listening to us again”
He also said electricians in Townsville who had been “starved” of decent work for years were dismayed last week when a South Australian company that pays award wages won an $18 million electrical tender at the city’s new stadium.
“The company’s never done a tender of this size and we have serious concerns with them about even completing the project, they’re from Adelaide, they’re anti-worker, they pay shit wages and blokes are pretty disappointed,” he said.
He said companies paying the enterprise bargaining rate of $47 an hour for electricians were told not to bother tendering unless they could match the price of companies paying the award rate of $24 an hour.
“When did it become shameful for a Labor government to do the right thing by workers?” he said.
“It blows my mind and that’s why our members are so up in arms and they’re pushing for us to campaign around that.”