While the CFMEU has been the union dominating the news these days, the Electrical trade union has also just made the news after threating industrial action in Victoria.
According to reports talks between employers and the Electrical Trade Union is at a stalemate which may result in thousands of electricians embarking on industrial action.
Talks between the union and electrical contractors have been unsuccessful mostly due to a new federal building code which limits the types of claims unions can make in the industry. As many as 11,000 electricians are being represented by the union and if an agreement isn’t reached soon, it could throw the Victorian construction industry into disarray.
An article on TheAge.com.au quoted Electrical Trades Union state secretary Troy Gray who said that industrial action was a possibility because of stalled talks between the 2 entities.
The code which is causing the strife between the union and contractors can prevent employers from bidding for federal government work if it’s rules are not adhered to.
According to Mr Gray we could expect this industrial action later this year. He was quoted as saying:
‘‘If I reported back to 11,000 sparkies in Victoria that they are going to lose 76 conditions in their current agreement I strongly believe they will fight with everything to retain that.’’
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Gray went on to accuse the Abbott government of attempting to lower the living standards of at least a million construction workers in Australia through the draft code and the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The ABCC would predominantly target so-called bullying behaviour exhibited by the construction unions.
Although the measures have not yet been passed, if they do pass the Senate all workplace agreements after April 24th will have to comply.
The Electrical Trade Union and National Employer and Communications Association talks are of particular concern because they could affect around 50,000 workers and hundreds of Vic businesses.
Employer Minister Eric Abetz was quoted as commenting on the situation,
‘‘The terms of the draft code have been released for more than three months now and are very clear. All affected organisations – employer organisations and unions – have had ample opportunity to familiarise themselves with the code and prepare agreements that are compliant,’’ Senator Abetz said.
‘‘It is disappointing that the ETU is dishonestly seeking to use the code as an excuse for any delays that may have occurred in its discussions with NECA.’’
The Electrical Trade Union will be launching advertisements to target cross-bench senators to stop the Abbott government’s legislation from being passed.
The legislation would affect issues including overtime, employment of apprentices and older workers as the following quote from Gray explained:
Among the workplace conditions affected by the government’s rules would be clauses that dealt with overtime, the employment of apprentices and older workers, Mr Gray said.
‘‘Employers have never opposed those in the past, ” he said. ‘‘If there is as an example of this government’s agenda to wage war on workers, to attack their wages and living standards the building code is that. It’s not WorkChoices, it’s much worse than WorkChoices.’’