More than 1000 workers will walk off the job for 24 hours on Thursday over a pay dispute with two of the east coast’s largest power companies.
The Electrical Trades Union is locked in a rolling pay battle with electricity transmission and distribution giants Transgrid and Endeavour Energy and union leadership has warned the industrial action will escalate without a wages deal that matches inflation.
“We’ll continue ramping up industrial action until these bosses agree to sit down and agree to a pay deal that recognised the surging cost of living,” ETU NSW secretary Allen Hicks said.
“The deal we are after for members will help energy workers catch up.
“Inflation is coming under control and workers need a fair go.”
The union is pushing for a yearly 8 cent bump in pay over three years and claims wages at Endeavour have risen 10.5 per cent since 2019 and 8 per cent at Transgrid, while inflation has hit 18 per cent over the same period.
“These privatised energy operators are raking it in while workers’ pay has plummeted in real terms,” he said.
“Workers simply cannot afford to keep going backwards. Pay rises have moved at half the rate of inflation. Take-home pay is shrinking.”
An Endeavour Energy spokeswoman said the union’s demands were not “sustainable”.
“We do not believe the union’s requested pay increases and other claims are sustainable,” the spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
“They add significant costs to the business over the next three years without any productivity or efficiency improvements.”
Endeavour is offering workers an upfront $1000 payment followed by pay increases of 5.25 per cent from July 1, 2024, 3.25 per cent for 2025-26 and then 2.75 per cent for 2026-27.
“Given the current economic conditions, we feel fortunate to put forward a proposal to our employees that is fair and reasonable and recognises the important work they do each day,” the spokeswoman said.
“While we respect the right of unions to strike, we believe more progress can be made by focusing on negotiations.”
In early January, the union rejected a Transgrid offer of a 13 per cent increase over three years and pursued action across the company’s portfolio of assets, which include transmission lines, high voltage underground cables, substations, switching stations and digital infrastructure transferring electricity to more than three million households and businesses across NSW and the ACT.
Endeavour Energy operates the electrical network from Ulladulla in NSW’s Shoalhaven region up to Waterfall and western Sydney
The strikes have put at risk Transgrid’s signature $2.3bn EnergyConnect transmission line build between South Australia and NSW.
Mr Hicks said Thursday’s action would disrupt operations at the green energy project and push out its maintenance backlog.
EnergyConnect will link power grids in South Australia and NSW and it’s expected to feed more renewable energy into the National Energy Market.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has deemed the interconnector a “required project” to fortify Australia’s eastern energy market.
A Transgrid spokeswoman said this week the company was working towards a “timely resolution” in its negotiations with the union.
“We will continue to progress discussions in good faith towards finalising an agreement that is in the best interests of our people, customers and consumers,” the spokeswoman said.
It’s understood the strike will not affect retail power prices.
Endeavour has said it has put in place contingency plans to limit the impact of industrial action on its customers.
The striking workers will gather at Parramatta Square in western Sydney from 9.30am.