Ausgrid workers, who worked tirelessly to provide essential electricity services throughout the COVID crisis, are outraged after the company announced plans to impose a 12 month wage freeze on the eve of Christmas.
The Electrical Trades Union said an overwhelming majority of members were prepared to take industrial action in response to the wage freeze, with legally protected work stoppages and bans able to occur from early next year.
The union also slammed Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross’ decision to notify the media of the planned wage freeze before even telling workers, saying it showed complete contempt for the company’s hardworking employees.
ETU secretary Justin Page said the announcement was a kick in the guts at a time when essential workers should be rewarded for their efforts during this year’s health crisis.
“While millions of Australians stayed home during the height of the COVID crisis, our members continued to put their health on the line to maintain reliable electricity supplies; responding to outages, undertaking essential maintenance, and carrying out much-needed upgrade works,” Mr Page said.
“Rather than reward this selfless effort, Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross has delivered a kick in the guts to his entire workforce by announcing plans to freeze their wages on the eve of Christmas.
“This proposal would result in workers suffering a cut in their real wages for at least the next three years, imposing unnecessary hardship on them and their families.
“The wage freeze comes on top of Ausgrid’s plans to slash 500 jobs, with the first 200 workers due to lose their jobs in January.
“The decision to inform the media and shareholders before telling staff also demonstrates the appalling judgement of Ausgrid management and their failure to treat their workers with the respect they deserve.
“Ausgrid’s media statement claims that senior management have already had their pay frozen, but under intense questioning from the union today, the company reluctantly admitted that those senior staff were still receiving annual bonuses of up to 10 per cent of their salary.
“The Ausgrid CEO has also revealed the true motivation for this proposed wage freeze, the need to deliver increased dividends to the shareholders of this privatised electricity network company.
“Investors should be extremely worried about the Gross mismanagement of Ausgrid, with a CEO who doesn’t understand that the company’s skilled, experienced, hardworking employees are the backbone of the business.
“As Ausgrid workers head into the busy summer period, a time when they are traditionally busy restoring power following bushfires and major storms, management are telling them that those efforts aren’t valuable and come second to the need to increase corporate profits.
“This is an outrageous proposal and we will be fighting hard to overturn it.”