Details of the further improved offer for a new Power and Water Enterprise Agreement
After genuine consideration of the feedback provided by the Single Bargaining Unit on my improved offer of 20 August 2021, I am offering some further significant improvements to terms and conditions of service for Power and Water employees, in a genuine attempt to settle negotiations and finalise bargaining.
The offer is consistent with the NT Public Sector Wages Policy 2021-2024 and the NTPS Bargaining Policy 2021-2024, and the terms comprise a complete package of improvements and changes to terms and conditions of employment.
These additional improvements will see the Agreement as one of the most family supportive public sector agreements in the nation and will provide employees with greater certainty regarding employment conditions during the next 4 years.
Outlined below are the full terms of an overall improved ‘without prejudice’ offer for a new Enterprise Agreement to replace the existing 2018-2021 Power and Water Enterprise Agreement.
- Term of Agreement
- No involuntary redundancies for term of Agreement
- Lump sum payment
- Commitment if there are changes in the wages policy
- No reduction in current or future rights and entitlements
- Continue to increase allowances by Consumer Price Index (CPI)
- New Christmas closedown Leave
- Improved Excess Travel Time
- Improved Union delegate training leave – remove service requirements
- Request to work from home – only CEO may refuse
- Incorporate PSEM by-law leave entitlements in the Agreement
- Leave to engage in voluntary emergency management activities
- Defence Service Leave
- Improved Leave for disabilities caused by war service (War Service Leave)
- NAIDOC March and approved activities
- Kinship Obligation Leave – Five days paid leave for Sorry Business
- Foster and Kinship Carer leave
- Gender Transition Leave
- Improved Compassionate Leave
There would be a number of improvements to compassionate leave as follows:
- 3 days increased to 5 days on the death or serious threat to life of the employee’s immediate family or household member, which will now include stillbirths;
- NEW – 3 days paid compassionate leave on the death of the employee’s (excluding casuals) extended family member. ‘Extended family member’ means:
- a spouse of the employee’s child (e.g. son-in- law)
- a spouse of the employee’s sibling (e.g. sister-in-law)
- an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or first cousin of the employee.
- NEW – 3 days paid leave if the employee or their partner experiences a miscarriage. The employee must provide a medical certificate from a medical practitioner stating that the employee’s pregnancy or the partner’s pregnancy has ended. Leave is unpaid for casual employees.
- Health Screening Leave – double existing entitlement
- Flexible Lifestyle (Purchased) Leave
- Employer superannuation contributions (SG) paid during Parental Leave
- NEW - Recognising the support parents need at the time of the birth / placement of their child, a new provision to pay SG during paid and unpaid Partner Leave during the first 12 months as if the employee had been at work. Employees will be eligible if their spouse is also a NTPS employee. (note: employees taking Primary Caregiver Leave already have this entitlement).
- NEW - Recognising that women’s superannuation earning capacity may reduce when on parental leave, to pay SG at double the legislated rate during a period of paid Primary Caregiver Leave (includes Special Maternity Leave (stillbirth)). Should the employee elect to take any paid parental leave at half pay, the double superannuation contributions will only be paid for a period that is equivalent to utilising the paid parental leave at full pay.
- Expanded definition of ‘continuous service’ under Parental Leave
- Returning from Parental Leave
- Pre-natal Leave
- Principles for Casuals right to request conversion to ongoing employment
- Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Provisions
It is proposed the new Agreement will have a four-year term that will provide employees with job certainty and secured terms and conditions over this period, including employment security.
There will be no involuntary redundancies (notice of redundancy) for the term of the Agreement. This does not apply to an employee declared potentially surplus to requirements under section 41 of the Public Sector Employment and Management Act 1993 (PSEM Act) and listed on the OCPE Redeployment Database for longer than two years.
There would be a $1000 lump sum payment per annum with the first payment due after the Agreement has been approved by the Fair Work Commission. For the years 2022, 2023 and 2024 the annual payment would be made on the first pay day on or after 15 July. Overall, employees would receive $4000 over 4 years.
Employer superannuation guarantee is applicable to the lump sum payment. However, due to the rules of the defined benefit schemes, employer superannuation guarantee is not applicable to the lump sum paid to NTGPASS and CSS members.
To be eligible for the lump sum payment, employees must be employed on the date the payment is to be made as set out in the Agreement. The lump sum will be payable to employees who are on unpaid parental leave, unpaid personal leave or other leave without pay that is for a period of less than 4 weeks. Casual employees will be eligible if they have performed work up to the date of payment and are expected to continue to perform work after that date. Employees on multiple employment contracts (consistent with section 38A of the PSEM Act) will only be eligible for a single lump sum payment on each occasion in relation to the performance of work in classifications in the Agreement under all contracts of employment.
Should there be a change to the Wages Policy during the term of the Agreement that provides for additional benefits above those contained in this offer (such as an increase to salaries above the value of the lump sum payment outlined in point 3 above), these will be passed on through a determination.
The Agreement would include a clause that there will be no reduction in current or future employee rights and entitlements, including provision of allowances and leave arrangements.
The Agreement would continue CPI indexation of existing allowances in Determination Number 1 of 2021 that are adjusted by the September to September Darwin CPI. The allowances will not reduce if the Darwin CPI is negative.
A new entitlement providing paid Christmas Closedown Leave for the number of days needed to cover an agency’s closedown period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. If there are operational reasons why an employee is required to work during the Christmas to New Year’s Day period (e.g. agency does not closedown), the employee will be able to bank the equivalent working days (on a time for time basis) to be taken within the following 12 months. The entitlement does not accumulate from year to year and is not paid out on cessation of employment.
Amendments to the existing provisions to provide employees above the salary barrier for Excess Travel Time (i.e. not eligible), but who would otherwise meet the excess travel time provisions, with the ability to accrue time off in lieu (not paid overtime). This will apply to employees in receipt of annual salary up to the maximum salary payable to a Band 3. The accrued TOIL is to be taken within three months or as agreed with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The existing 12 month service requirement to be eligible for paid union delegate training leave would be removed. All other requirements will be retained (e.g. evidence employee has been nominated by the union to attend and of attendance at the course).
Facilitating flexible working arrangements for all employees will be a key objective of the Agreement. To support this objective, only CEOs will have the authority to refuse an employee’s request to work from home. Such requests may only be refused on reasonable business grounds as defined in the Agreement.
The Agreement currently refers to the By-laws for leave without pay, miscellaneous leave and defence service leave. The detail of these entitlements would be included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement.
Miscellaneous leave (By-law 18) entitlements would be set out in separate clauses, namely ‘Blood Donation Leave’ and ‘Leave to Engage in Voluntary Emergency Management Activities’.
This is a NEW clause moving Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18) in relation to volunteering for emergency management activities into the Agreement. The existing provision will be updated and improved to reflect current legislation and include paid leave for reasonable rest time immediately following the employee’s participation in the emergency management activity.
An entitlement to paid leave for undertaking defence service (e.g. army reserve) would be included in the Agreement. Entitlements will be equivalent to By-law 14 Defence Leave.
The existing entitlements, set out in Determination Number 6 of 2011, would be improved and included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement. To assist veterans and agencies to apply the entitlements, the provisions would make it clear that ‘war service’ includes peace-keeping service and hazardous operational service. The improvement will enable eligible employees to access their accrued war service leave (i.e. leave granted and accrued in relation to their original disability) for a further condition recognised as caused by war sometime after the recognition of the original disability (e.g. PTSD). Leave is currently only available in relation to the original disability.
This is a NEW entitlement. Paid NAIDOC leave would be available (up to 3 hours) to attend NAIDOC march and NAIDOC week activities. Paid leave will be approved where flextime or time off in lieu are not otherwise available.
This is a NEW entitlement. The Australian First Nation’s definition of ‘kinship’ will be included in the Agreement for the purpose of providing up to 5 days paid leave per annum for ‘Sorry Business’ or related purposes. That definition is:
Australian First Nations kinship where there is a connection, relationship or obligation under the customs, traditions or cultures of the communities, groups or families to which the employee belongs.
The 5 days will be in addition to compassionate leave, and may be taken in broken periods and at half pay. The 5 days doesn’t accrue and is not cumulative.
Foster Carer and Kinship Carer Leave, set out in Determination Number 7 of 2020, would be included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement and the existing entitlements improved to provide 2 days paid leave (currently unpaid) to attend Permanent Care Order interviews.
This is a NEW entitlement. Gender transition leave would be available to support employees who wish to transition their gender. Employees (excluding casuals) with at least 12 months service and who have commenced transitioning their gender, would be entitled to up to 12 months leave, inclusive of 4 weeks paid and 48 weeks unpaid. Additional paid leave may be requested and granted by the CEO on a case-by-case basis.
Currently 1 hour paid leave is available every 2 years for cancer screening under Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18). The Agreement would replace this entitlement with a new ‘health screening leave’ that enables employees to access up to 1 hour of paid leave per year for the purpose of undertaking a health screening test associated with a public health screening program.
A ‘health screening test’ means a diagnostic procedure or medical appointment undertaken to screen for cancer or mental health conditions. If an employee undertakes screening for cancer and mental health in the same year, the maximum entitlement is 1 hour of paid leave.
The ‘Purchase of Additional Leave (Purchased Leave)’ in Schedule 6 clause 6.3 of the current Agreement would be re-named ‘Flexible Lifestyle (Purchased) Leave’ and enhanced to allow employees to request up to 8 weeks additional leave (currently maximum 6 weeks) per year, and provision to take the leave in blocks of 2 days (currently 1 week minimum).
This scheme enables employees to purchase more leave, through salary deductions, to be taken in the year it is purchased. Conditions will apply, including the requirement for employees to provide a written plan outlining how they intend to utilise the leave and the purchase must not result in an excess recreation leave balance.
To support employment mobility between different agencies within the broader NT Government context, the definition of ‘continuous service’ in the Parental Leave provisions would be expanded to recognise prior service with an agency for the purposes of the Financial Management Act 1995 (e.g. NT Police Force, Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority). This change would enable more employees to access paid parental leave entitlements or provide increased paid parental leave (e.g. with prior service recognised an employee can achieve 5 or more years’ service and be eligible for 18 weeks paid leave). Similar changes would be made to the definition of an ‘NTPS Employee Couple’ to enable NT Government employees to combine their paid parental leave entitlements.
Full-time employees returning from parental leave currently have a right ‘to request’ to convert to part-time employment on fixed term or ongoing basis. Where the employee wishes to do so, the Agreement would provide a right to return on a part-time basis for up to 6 months. A longer period of leave may be requested and approved by the CEO.
This is a NEW entitlement. An employee, whose partner is pregnant, or a pregnant employee will be able to access up to 8 hours paid leave to attend pre-natal appointments. Currently employees use personal or other leave or flextime to accommodate these appointments.
The Agreement would improve the existing entitlement for employees to enable up to 2 days paid leave (currently unpaid) to attend interviews or examinations required in order to obtain approval for the employee’s adoption of a child. Casual employees will be eligible for up to 2 days unpaid leave as per the current provisions.
Principles will be included in the Agreement to allow casual employees to request the conversion of their employment to ongoing where the employee has been engaged for a period of at least 12 months and has worked a regular pattern of hours.
To assist casual employees and agencies to be aware of the casual conversion rights and obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009/National Employment Standards (and also the underlying NTPS Enterprise Award 2016), the Agreement would contain a signpost clause to the relevant legislation.
The existing domestic and family violence provisions in the current Agreement would be expanded to include circumstances where employees have experienced sexual violence (i.e. sexual violence in non-domestic/family situations). The paid leave entitlements, currently provided through Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18), will be included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement. The CEO will retain the ability to approve uncapped paid leave for these purposes.
PWC Specific Conditions
- Improved Performance Achievement Framework (PAF)
- Inclusion of Power and Water specific provisions
The existing framework will be maintained with improvements to clarify and address Operator progression based on the current Operator classification/stream which will not require a merit process to progress.
To support a comprehensive agreement the following provisions currently provided for in Commissioner’s Determinations, will be incorporated into the Agreement:
- High Voltage Field Operator Allowance for regions;
- Appointment above the Base – Technical Coordinator and Technical Specialist designations;
- Appointment above the Base – Science and Engineering Professionals; and
- Annualised salary arrangements for Operators.
- Fitness for Work provisions
- Use of Contractors for Core Work provisions
- Extra Duty Allowance (EDA) improvements and clarification
- Improvements to Flexible Working Hours (Flextime)
- Additional commitments
The existing Fitness for Work provisions will be maintained in the Agreement with improvements to include references to fatigue management and physical impairment. The fitness for work clause elements will be moved to the Health and Safety clause to highlight the importance.
The existing Use of Contractors for Core Work provisions will be maintained in the Agreement and has been improved to include the implementation of a new committee to have oversight of consultation requirements related to the use of contractors for core work in regard to generation, transmission and distribution activities.
It is proposed to retain EDA and to pay on periods of paid parental leave on the basis that the clause is clarified to note public holiday provisions provided for under Availability Allowance will not apply to EDA.
It is proposed to retain the existing flextime provisions which allows up to 5 days accrual of Flextime. In addition, the provisions relating to forfeiture of flextime will be removed from the Agreement.
Power and Water also commit to:
- reviewing and updating the current fatigue management procedure with consultation*;
- the development of physical impairments management procedure with consultation*;
- the development of a single person task procedure with consultation*;
- ensuring frontline employees are consulted during any review following a natural disaster;
- commence job evaluations of Operator classification positions within six months of commencement of the Agreement;
- the development of a regional resourcing strategy within 12 months of commencement of the Agreement; and to adequately resource all reviews.
*Reviews will commence within 6 months of approval of the agreement, and where reasonably practicable, and in consultation with unions, aim to be completed within 18 months of approval.
Responses to SBU Claims
I have also agreed to a number of SBU claims that have been discussed during negotiation meetings and propose to incorporate into this offer as set out below.
- Inclusion of regional resourcing strategy to be developed
- Technical Coordinators to have access to Flextime/Work Life Balance options
- Australian Defence Force (ADF) service to be recognised for prior service
- Casual Employment
- Include definitions for Ongoing, Fixed Period and Casual employment
- Improved conditions for call out and overtime
- New separate clauses for Apprentices / Graduates / Trainees
- Guaranteed Graduate and Trainee intakes
- Hosted Apprentice intake
- Hosted Apprentices from an NTPS apprentice employer (or similar)
To provide for development of a regional resourcing strategy within 12 months and a commitment to commence implementation of the strategy as soon as reasonably practicable following development.
To provide Technical Coordinators access to work life balance options such as flextime arrangements to achieve a Rostered Day Off or other flexible work arrangements without having to demonstrate they have completed the 265 additional hours component.
To recognise ADF service of employees as prior service for Long Service Leave purposes subject to current recognition of service requirements contained in PSEM By-law 8 (e.g. breaks in service).
The proposed improvement to increase the casual loading from 20% to 25% is on the basis of adopting the common provisions regarding the right to request conversion and removing the existing automatic conversion provisions, following 100 days worked, currently contained in the Power and Water specific casual employment determination.
These definitions will be included to provide clarity of employment arrangements.
This clause would incorporate my proposed signpost clause to the Fair Work Act 2009 / National Employment Standards for casual conversion.
To address alarms/callouts of less than 3 or 4 hours (which will provide the ability for a manager to stand down an employee for rest break), and minimum payments for alarms, and on call rosters to ensure no employee is required to work more than two consecutive weeks.
New clauses will be included to emphasise specific provisions for Apprentices, Graduates and Trainees, and clarifying the employment provisions which apply in the Agreement.
In addition to including specific clause provisions for Graduates and Trainees in the new agreement, I will include a guaranteed intake of 2 Graduates and 2 Trainees per annum.
In recognition of the trade based roles across the Corporation, I confirm my previous offer to guarantee an intake of 8 Apprentices per annum, with updates to include reference to targeting intakes of females and people from diverse cultures. These will be in addition to any dual trade apprenticeship that are offered each year. The current aspirational target of 10 Apprentices will be retained.
Hosted apprentices currently have their prior service recognised for LSL purpose however, will be entitled to new conditions of:
- three weeks personal leave on commencement
- recognition of service for parental leave purposes (subject to a break in service no less than two months)
- access to the Employee Assistance Program.
- Aboriginal recruitment, training and career progression
- Highlighting of health and safety
To address the SBU’s claim, it is proposed to include a new clause in the Agreement that the parties acknowledge the NTPS Aboriginal Employment and Career Development Strategy for 2021 – 2025 and Employment Instruction Number 15 (Special Measures) as a key policy initiative and legislation respectively supporting Aboriginal recruitment, training and career progression.
To address the claims related to health and safety, it is proposed to:
- have a single rebranded clause providing for all safety related provisions under the Agreement
- separate headings for safety related elements
- commitments around the maintenance of a Work Health and Safety Management System (which PWC already has in place) committing to regular meetings, employee representation and appropriate communications along with a mechanism to escalate where issues are identified.
- a commitment to supporting sector-wide guidelines to ensure work health and safety of employees, including remote employees and where travelling for work is required
- for all employees to be granted reasonable unscheduled short rest breaks (other than meal breaks) during work hours to refresh to ensure safe systems of work.
- Infectious Disease
- Retention of clauses/provisions
The SBU sought provisions dealing with pandemic situations e.g. COVID-19, and other changes to the infectious diseases provisions in the current Agreement. As discussed in bargaining, pandemic events are rare and COVID-19 has shown that I am able to quickly and appropriately respond to rapidly changing circumstances to support employees with a range of entitlements using my powers under the PSEM Act.
The claim to include pandemic leave conditions in the Agreement is not agreed. Employees who are sick or suffering from a notifiable disease will be required to utilise personal leave. Where an employee has exhausted their leave entitlements, the CEO may grant additional sick leave as is currently the case.
A new clause would be included to acknowledge that if an employee suffers an injury or disease in the course of employment they may be eligible for workers compensation entitlements in accordance with the Return to Work Act 1986.
To address the claims related to the retention of existing clauses or provisions, it is proposed to:
- retain the existing clause regarding workloads; and
- maintain the existing requirements to consult prior to a decision being made.
- Improved Dispute Settling Procedures
- Work Life Balance and Family Friendly Provisions
- Inclusion of undertakings
The SBU are seeking to amend the current clause so all matters arising under the Agreement are subject to dispute settlement procedures (i.e. remove the current exemptions) and therefore ultimately arbitration by the Fair Work Commission.
I have considered the SBUs position and am prepared to amend the clause to retain the existing Dispute Settling Procedures (i.e. no reduction) in relation to disputes that may be referred to arbitration. In addition, the current provisions would be amended to allow all disputes regarding refusals for flexible work or to extend parental leave to be referred to arbitration by a party following unsuccessful attempts at internal resolution and conciliation. This change removes the current exemptions and expands disputes that can be taken to arbitration, if required.
Employees would continue to have access to the work life balance options provided under the current Agreement (e.g. recreation leave at half pay, part-time employment, and flextime). The offer contains a number of enhancements to existing entitlements that facilitate employees working flexibly.
For consistency and to ensure employee requests are considered in a timely manner, all requests for flexible work, regardless of the circumstances, will require a response from the CEO (or delegate) within 21 days and may only be refused on reasonable business grounds. ‘Reasonable business grounds’ will be as defined in the current Agreement. Note: As per Item 10 above, only the CEO can refuse a request to work from home.
The SBU claim is seeking increases to the employer contribution by 0.5% per annum until the rate reached 12%, irrespective of any Commonwealth legislation. I was unable to agree to this part of the unions’ claim as it is outside the Wages Policy.
Employer superannuation guarantee (SG) will be paid in accordance with federal legislation. This means legislated SG increases during the term of the Agreement will apply and that superannuation will only be paid up to the maximum contribution base even if an employee’s ordinary time earnings (including allowances which count for purposes of superannuation) exceed this amount. For employees in defined benefit schemes (e.g. NTGPASS and CSS), superannuation will continue to apply in accordance with the rules of the relevant fund.
To address the claims related to previous Agreement undertakings, it is proposed to include the following undertakings:
- the casual loading (as referred to above);
- hosted apprentices are not employees for the purposes of the definition of “employee” contained in the Agreement;
- where an Undergraduate employee is employed on a part time basis is:
- directed to perform additional hours above their agree hours then overtime will be payable; or
- requests to perform additional hours for in excess of their agreed hours then flexible working hours (flextime) and additional leave options under the Agreement will apply.
- for the purposes of the additional week of recreation (annual) leave provided for in the National Employment Standards, a shiftworker will be an employee:
- rostered to work ordinary shifts on any of the seven days of the week; and
- is regularly rostered to perform work on Sundays and Public Holidays.
The above improved offer to represents a good package that provides a solid foundation for the improvement of employment conditions, job certainty and addresses priority issues raised by all unions, where possible within the NTPS Bargaining Policy. The offer also reflects the extensive and constructive discussions about issues raised by all parties during bargaining.
Last updated: 24 September 2021
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