15 March 2024

Transgrid sparkies go on strike risking power outages across Canberra and NSW

| Claire Fenwicke
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ETU members on strike

This is the second time in about a month that Transgrid ETU members have downed tools over pay. Photo: ETU.

Nearly 400 Transgrid union members are downing tools for 24 hours on Friday (15 March), which could result in lengthy outages in NSW and the ACT.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has been fighting with the company over wages and conditions since October, calling for a pay rise of 8 per cent each year over three years. Transgrid has proposed a 5 per cent increase in year one, followed by 4 per cent in the following two years. Superannuation contributions would also increase by one per cent to 16.5 per cent.

The union has argued that this offer isn’t enough because of a national skills shortage and cost-of-living pressures.

The ETU has warned the protected industrial action will push out Transgrid’s maintenance backlog and disrupt operations, including to the Project EnergyConnect, Australia’s largest energy transmission project stretching from South Australia to Wagga Wagga.

It means any faults on the high-voltage transmission network won’t be fixed, which ETU NSW/ACT secretary Allen Hicks said risked outages in NSW and the ACT.

“Transgrid would rather risk the integrity of the high-voltage transmission network and create delays on critical projects than pay its workers a decent wage,” he said.

“Day in, day out, our members power our schools, hospitals, workplaces and homes by maintaining the backbone of the electricity system, but their hard work is met with inadequate compensation and abysmal pay offers.”

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Mr Hicks argued the majority foreign-owned company was lowballing Australian workers while sending “massive profits” offshore.

“Our electrical workers are indispensable amidst a national skills shortage in the energy transmission sector. As Australia works towards net zero, Transgrid’s tightfistedness threatens to drive out more tradies and slow down the renewable energy transition,” he said.

“Transgrid must do the decent thing and pay its essential workforce a decent salary. We can’t live without our tradies, but our tradies can’t afford the cost of living.

“We won’t stop industrial action until Transgrid pays its electrical workers what they’re worth.”

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The union has promised that any life-threatening emergencies during the 24-hour strike would be responded to, which is in line with the safety guarantees it has agreed to.

Other protected actions will include bans on locking (the locking and unlocking of padlocks and substations) and bans on using Transgrid credit cards to buy goods and services for the company.

It’s understood the base wage for the average field worker is about $117,000, which excludes overtime, travel allowances and working away from home allowances.

A Transgrid spokesperson said the company hoped to finalise negotiations soon.

“We are seeking to finalise a revised package of wage increases and other proposed benefits as soon as possible and we continue to discuss the Protected Industrial Action with the unions and our people,” they said.

The spokesperson stated the safety of the company’s people, the network and the community was its “first priority” and they were focused on ensuring safety, security and reliability across the grid.

“We continue to assess and mitigate, and wherever possible eliminate any risks to the network or the nation-critical major projects under construction,” they said.

“We will continue to progress discussions in good faith towards finalising an agreement that is in the best interests of our people and consumers.”

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Hang on a sec….. isn’t all of the ACT power 100% renewable and from solar and wind generated within the ACT (acoording to the BARRRRR Govt), so why will there be any impact on the ACT if a high voltage line in NSW is damaged……ohhhh so we still rely on coal generated power from NSW

“Transgrid has proposed a 5 per cent increase in year one, followed by 4 per cent in the following two years. Superannuation contributions would also increase by one per cent to 16.5 per cent”
That sounds like a pretty good offer from Transgrid to me.

The recently agreed pay rise for APS staff was 4% from March 2024; 3.8% from March 2025 and 3.4% from March 2026 with no increase in employer super contributions – which I think is about 15%

Perhaps these sparkies should consider going private.

Capital Retro4:16 pm 15 Mar 24

They should count their blessings that they still have jobs.

How about you actually tell us how much $ these workers currently earn so readers can make an informed judgement.

The article says average field workers get a base wage of $117,000 plus overtime, travel expenses and away from home allowances. These days it’s smarter to get an electrical or other other construction related trade qualification than a degree!

The average full time adult income in Australia is approaching $100k. It seems completely reasonable that a skilled worker who’s undergone years of training to work in a dangerous trade during a skills shortage might command north of $120k.

I don’t know what the problem is here. Like any other business, Transgrid has input costs and the price has gone up. Suck it up and pay the bill.

It may be the average, but it’s not the median. However, demand and supply says that these technicians need to be well-paid for what they do and if you don’t want to pay them, then you won’t keep them.

Capital Retro10:02 pm 15 Mar 24

There were 125,000 migrants hat came into Australia in January. I’ll bet a lot of them were electricians who would be very happy to get the existing wage the ETU strikers reckon is not enough.

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