One story for the workers, another for the stock exchange

The CEPU in South Australia is standing up for a fair enterprise agreement (EA) at SA Power networks (SAPN) and Enerven this year.

By Ben Jewell, organiser, CEPU SA

In late June, SAPN and Enerven met with workers to discuss their upcoming EA. They offered a low 2% pay increase for a 12-month EA citing uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We weren’t impressed, and neither were our members. We travelled throughout the state talking to members who unanimously rejected the offer. Instead they said they would accept a 12-month agreement if annual 3.5% increases were maintained – a rollover of all terms and conditions.

When we brought this counteroffer to SAPN/Enerven they said there wasn’t enough money for a 3.5% increase because it didn’t fit with their “Business Imperatives.”

Meanwhile, Spark Infrastructure put out an ASX release which said the pandemic had had “minimal impacts” on the business and projected growth over the coming years at 4%.

We told our members about this, and the company’s refusal to accept the counteroffer. We asked them to communicate with their fellow workers so they would understand that it is ‘one story for the workers and another story for the stock exchange.’

Then we worked with members to gather a Log of Claims to commence traditional bargaining. We presented the Log in September with SAPN/Enerven present. A week and a half later, the company decided that we were at an “impasse” and decided “to allow the workers the opportunity to decide via a vote.”

For the vote, they put out the very same 2% offer, even after all of the negative feedback, so we kicked our delegate structures into high gear and got our members to encourage a NO vote with all workers in all departments.

The Vote ended at midnight Wednesday 15 October and was a resounding No, with 63% voting to reject the proposed EA. There were 1108 No votes and 656 Yes votes.

Since June, SAPN/Enerven have just wasted four months of everyone’s time. Our members will not tolerate this. We will now progress our claims and make a better workplace of SAPN than what the managers had proposed.

“CEPU members and their fellow workers at SAPN and Enerven have shown the power of collective bargaining. We know that if they stay strong and work together, they’ll get a far better agreement.” Said national industry coordinator Matt Murphy.

“Well done to our organisers, delegates and members for making sure all workers were informed about SAPN/Enerven’s offer and achieving a solid vote. Solidarity and discipline will win every time,” said CEPU SA State Secretary John Adley.

SAPN/Enerven still haven’t substantiated how any “uncertainty” from the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their operations and most importantly, those on the frontline have not witnessed even the slightest change in productivity or efficiency as a result of the global pandemic.

Our members can spot bullshit when they see it – and they won’t stop fighting until they get a fair deal. Union proud, union strong!

CEPU SA Branch Secretary John Adley spoke to SAPN members about the EA. 

This article was publised on 28 October 2020.