Dispute puts Mid West work on blink

Ben Harvey & Phoebe PinCountryman
Western Power at work in Wubin.
Camera IconWestern Power at work in Wubin. Credit: Countryman

Maintenance work across the Mid West will be cancelled while Western Power workers stage a strike as part of an industrial dispute from tomorrow.

Western Power could not dissuade the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union from taking the action, which is in response to reports of poor working conditions and an excess of contractors on Western Power jobs.

The strike, which will start at 5am tomorrow — comes as about 400 homes and businesses remain without power because of cyclone Seroja. Western Power executive manager asset operations Sam Barbaro said a pause on maintenance works was unavoidable.

“Regrettably, we’ve reached the point where even if the union was to cancel their action, we’d still be unable to proceed with jobs currently scheduled for Thursday and Friday,” he said.

Mr Barbaro slammed the union for pursuing the strike while hundreds of Mid West residents were in their fifth week of power blackouts in the wake of the cyclone.

He said the union was “clearly not interested in reaching a settlement” on Monday and presented new claims which had not been raised with Western Power during previous wage negotiations.

“A new claim is an allowance of up to $150 per day for when employees covered by the CEPU enterprise agreement are required to share facilities with each other, such as kitchens and toilets,” he said.

“This new allowance is in addition to the relevant Living Away from Home Allowance already paid, and having accommodation provided.”

Mr Barbaro said Western Power believed the union’s demands were “unreasonable” and “out of line” with industry standards.

“If we agree to their claims it would cost over $30 million a year and equate to an almost 40 per cent increase on the average annual wage of people covered under the CEPU agreement,” he said.

His comments came after assistant State secretary Brendan Reeve of the Electrical Trades Union, a branch of the CEPU, said the parties could not reach agreement on Western Power’s use of contractors, which the union says undercuts its industrial position.

The union would happily continue talking about other matters without taking industrial action, but the issue of contract work was an immediate line in the sand, he said. “If Western Power guarantees the changed jobs security clause then we will pull the strike action this week,” he said.

The CEPU has agreed to ensure urgent repair work where there is a threat to life.

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