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NECA supports contractors challenging ETU wage rise claims

The National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) is calling on electrical contractors to collectively resist the pressure of industrial action and the ETU Queensland’s campaign to “discredit” contractors involved in EBA negotiations.

NECA claims the union is making excessive demands for wage increases in the current economic conditions.

NECA says there has been a breakdown in negotiations between electrical contractors and the union to finalise an agreement that would deliver workers a pay increase of 18 per cent over three years.

Some contractors are moving to establish non-union agreements with their employees as a result, with proposed wage rises varying from 8 per cent over four years to 11.4 per cent over three years.

In response, the union’s Queensland branch has commenced a series of rolling strikes against John Goss Projects and is planning a wider campaign of industrial action that may involve up to 3,000 electrical workers and impact on many electrical contractors across the state, says NECA.

“The ETU has also taken its campaign public with a paid advertisement in The Courier Mail (January 24-25, 2009) that names and accuses a number of electrical contractors of refusing to finalise an ETU EBA,” said a pess release from NECA.

NECA National chief executive officer, James Tinslay, said the union’s response to electrical contractors offering workers non-union agreements is not a surprise.

“The ETU continues to demand wage increases that just aren’t sustainable, especially now that Australia’s economy is suffering its greatest hardship in almost a decade,” he said.

“The 18 per cent claims are excessive, especially in the current financial climate and fly in the face of pleas for moderation by the Prime Minister. Our industry in Queensland is not in a position to afford such wage rises nor would it be able to withstand the resulting competition from interstate electrical contractors.”

“Until the ETU is willing to approach the negotiation table with some sense of reason and consideration for the long term prosperity of the industry, NECA is encouraging all electrical contractors to resist the union’s tactics.

“We are supporting Stowe Australia’s offer of an 8 per cent wage increase over four years to its employees and encourage our members to consider a similar move. We know there are six to eight medium to large contractors looking at change, and if the non-union agreements take off in Queensland, the landscape will shift dramatically.

“It is the opinion of NECA that the union is not interested in reaching any sort of agreement and is indifferent to contractors’ needs, rather resorting to tactics that could be perceived as bullying. In our current economic climate, it is important that we stand together and take the reasonable requests of our electrical contractors into account otherwise wage rates will spiral out of control, companies will suffer and ultimately employees may be left jobless.

“We urge all employees who are asked to vote for any industrial action against electrical contractors in support of the ETU’s log of claims, to consider the state of the economy and the minimal effect that any industrial action will have on the resolve of electrical contractors who are attempting to preserve their business and the jobs of their employees.”

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