03/06/2021 - 15:56

Negotiation call as power strike escalates

03/06/2021 - 15:56

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The state’s business lobby has called for the electrical union to come to the negotiating table as Western Power workers planned a 48 hour strike action this week.

Negotiation call as power strike escalates
Western Power operates the state's South West power grid. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The state’s business lobby has called for the electrical union to come to the negotiating table as Western Power workers planned a 48 hour strike action this week.

Workers from the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union WA were planning to stop work today and tomorrow in the latest escalation of an ongoing industrial dispute, Western Power said.

It follows prior industrial actions by the union’s 800 Western Power workers in May.

Western Power owns and operates the state's main power grid in the South West.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA chief executive Chris Rodwell said electricity supply was central to the state’s economy.

“Strikes impose a greater risk of power grid failure, representing increased uncertainty for business,” Mr Rodwell said. 

“They are also a risk to community safety, due to interruptions and decreased maintenance work and delays in getting power restored.

“Industrial action, albeit an acknowledged right, should be a measure of last resort, especially when it threatens to have widespread impacts for communities and the economy.”

Mr Rodwell said the government had been disciplined on public sector wages, while the union’s requests would undermine this effort.

Western Power estimated the price tag of the union’s requests would be $31 million, Business News has reported.

Those requests included allowances for workers in regional areas, allowances for work in adverse weather, and pay recognition that employees had often continued to work through breaks in emergencies.

The union also wanted a guarantee that workers would not be replaced with contractors, and that contractors would need to charge the same rate as workers.

Today, Western Power said discussions with the union were ongoing, and the company was disappointed by the strike.

“The union’s so-called contractor clause would severely restrict Western Power’s ability to respond efficiently to major storm events such as was the case in the cyclone affected areas in the north of the network recently,” a spokesperson said. 

“Those customer reconnections have yet to be completed, in part because of the strike action.

“The CEPU’s statements that we’ve cut jobs, wages and conditions, and are outsourcing too much work to contractors (are) unfounded and does not reflect reality. 

“We’ve kept wages in-line with the state wages policy as required, we’ve increased full time operational CEPU jobs by 55 full time equivalent in the past five years and we’re proposing to improve conditions in the (enterprise agreement).

“Additionally, CEPU members are among our longest-tenured staff with the average length of service about 11 years; some members have worked for Western Power for 50 plus years.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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