Electrical Trades Union NSW secretary Dave McKinley, who has been travelling throughout the state to brief members on the Change the Rules campaign, stopped in Mudgee this week.
“We’re bringing our members up to speed on the next stage of the Change the Rules campaign,” he said. “Because heading towards an election we need to get the message out that the rules are broken and our members need to start campaigning strongly to get that changed.
“There’s a myriad of legislation that’s been changed weighted the balance too much towards the employer. In towns like Mudgee we had a direct feeling from this three years ago when in the middle of an enterprise agreement negotiation Essential Energy tried to terminate the agreement and put workers back onto a minimum agreement.
“In response to that these guys took industrial action which was terminated before they got a chance to take it. So not only couldn’t they negotiate the agreement, they couldn’t take any steps to try and force the company to the table.
“And we had an outcome which was determined by the Fair Work Commission, it wasn’t a negotiation as such, we were just told what we were going to have.
“That outcome has led to mass redundancies right across NSW, because we lost the right to cap redundancies, we had no forced redundancies in our old agreement and that was taken away by the Fair Work Commission.
“There’s 50-something depots being closed across NSW and one like here in Mudgee has less than half the workforce it had five years ago.”
Mr McKinley said that stagnant wages, cuts to penalty rates, and a lack of job security are problems right across the economy – which have flow-on impacts on local communities.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the living cost index for working households has increased 2.3 per cent for the year-to-June and yet wage growth is only 2.1 per cent and in the private sector it’s 1.9 per cent,” he said.
“And the Household Income and Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA) survey has shown that the disposable income for the entire household adjusted for inflation has not increased since 2009.
“What that shows is Australia needs a pay rise, we’re seeing corporate Australia make increased profits every year – record levels now – and workers who are making those profits for them not having their wages increase at all.
“It all stems from a lot of these laws, including things like penalty rate cuts. And in a town like Mudgee they’d be a heap of people who work in retail and hospitality that are losing out on penalty rates and that money’s not staying in town - it’s not doing that circle where they go out and spend it.
“Broader than that, one of the biggest problems is the casualisation of Australia, the workforce was predominantly permanent only as recently as five or six years ago.
“We’re now one or two in the OECD for casualised workforces. Just over the mountains, the largest infrastructure job in NSW, WestConnex, has 50 per cent labour hire and their rates of pay are lower than the permanents.”