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TES workers win right to bargain Enterprise Agreement for the first time

Eimear test O'Sullivan

TES Electrical workers who are tired of poor wages and conditions are taking action and uniting for the first time.

This month they won the right to bargain an Enterprise Agreement from the Fair Work Commission. (This included TES appealing the majority support decision all the way to a Full Bench of Fair Work Commissioners - they lost!)

Electrical Services company TES Electrical in WA is well-known for being anti-union and for offering common law contracts with lower wages and minimum conditions.

This month after 18 months of discussions and confidence-building with workers, the ETU helped TES workers win a majority support determination, meaning they can now bargain an enterprise agreement, with no further appeals, for the first time. This milestone is the first time in the company’s history that workers have united to fight poor wages and conditions.

The log of claims that the employees want includes pay rates enjoyed by most good union enterprise bargaining agreements, a 4% pay rise per year and a range of allowances such as site allowance and travel allowance with radial travel bands. Income protection and severance pay into Protect are also part of the claims.

Currently the workers are getting paid one of two rates and have no allowances at all, except travel. They are getting paid less than some unlicensed trades; a trend that is seen across many commercial construction projects in Western Australia.

Throughout the process, TES Electrical had ignored numerous invitations to come to the table and negotiate or hear what the workers want. They have sought to negate and slow the process of bargaining from the beginning and create a culture of fear among their employees to stop them from standing up for their rights.

Union organisers Ian Gill, Ash Bamford and Damien Clancy have consulted extensively with the workers and encouraged all workers to talk to their mates on the job.

“The lesson in this for employees, who know they deserve better wages and conditions for their work, is to get together, stick together, call the union, join the union and fight together. It’s the only way you’re ever going to win anything,” said ETU organiser Ian Gill.

We will continue to communicate with employees and encourage them to join the union so they can agitate for a better deal. We’re looking forward to bargaining in good faith with TES Electrical and getting a decent agreement for these workers.

The union believes that if a decent EA gets up, it will have a flow on effect to the whole commercial electrical contracting industry in WA.

“It’ll send a message to other similar contractors that workers are tired of shit pay and conditions and the business model they’re pushing now, with the assistance of NECA, isn’t sustainable,” said Mr Gill.

ETU WA State Secretary Peter Carter says the Union is tackling these issues across the state.

“Early last year the ETU wrote to all the main electrical contractors in WA and requested meetings to address the parlous state of the industry, the main one being the low wage rates being paid to electricians,” he said.

“A level playing field is what we see as a better way forward, instead of ‘cheapest is best’, which allows builders to pit contractor against contractor, forcing the labour rate cost lower as the only conceivable way of winning a tender.

“Not one of them replied, including their employer body NECA. Therefore, we must deal with them one by one.

“When TES workers decided to make a stand for a decent EBA, we supported them.”

Join the ETU here: https://www.etunational.asn.au/


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