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Community safety primary concern during two-day CEPU strike

Western Power reminds households and businesses to stay safe and report any faults or unplanned outages during the two-day strike period starting at 5am on Thursday 20 May.

The strike by the Communications, Electrical & Plumbing Union (CEPU) may involve up to 820 employees across the metropolitan area and south-west of the state and part of their industrial action around a new enterprise agreement. All scheduled maintenance work has now been cancelled for the 48-hour period.

Our customer service centre will not be affected by industrial action and we urge the community to keep reporting any faults, shocks and tingles through our 13 13 51 number 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unplanned outages from weather conditions and other issues on the network should also be reported via the same number.

Western Power hasn’t been able to advise customers on when their cancelled maintenance work will be rescheduled. The complexities of maintenance activities mean work will be rescheduled within Western Power’s six-week planning cycle and we’ll advise customers in advance.

Western Power Executive Manager Asset Operations Sam Barbaro said while Western Power supported the right of employees to take industrial action, it was extremely disappointing that the strike was still going ahead and the union was still refusing to commit to work continuing on the 400 homes without power after TC Seroja five weeks ago.

“We’ve ensured that community safety remains front and centre during the two-day strike by obtaining the CEPU’s agreement that they’ll make sure urgent repair work is undertaken where there’s a threat to life. We appreciate their common-sense approach to looking after people at risk.
“The strike is part of ongoing CEPU industrial actions that’s impacting customers, including a range of partial work bans and a planned overtime ban, which has a major impact as some work is planned out of hours to minimise disruptions to customers.

‘Our commitment and focus have always been to reach an agreement that’s in line with our responsibility to the community and is fair and reasonable for our employees.”
Western Power’s response to industrial action is being conducted in accordance with the Fair Work Act.

Background

In mid-2020, Western Power began negotiations with the CEPU for a replacement enterprise agreement that will cover around 820 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 believes the CEPU’s demands to be unreasonable and out of line with community expectations. Their claims would cost over $30 million a year and equate to an almost 40 per cent increase on the average annual wage of people covered under the CEPU agreement. This represents a significant financial impost on our customers and the broader community.

Another key sticking point in negotiations involves a clause to restrict the use of contractors. Our business has been steadily reducing contractors during the past five years as we’ve brought more work back in house.

The contractor clause proposed by the union is so onerous on Western Power that it significantly impede our ability to manage our day-to-day business operations. Part of the same clause effectively seeks guaranteed jobs for life. This is also out of line with community expectations. Western Power offers very secure employment, backed by the State Government.

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 licence allowance of $33.00 per week (an increase from the original proposal of $27.33); 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.