Details of the proposed Power and Water Enterprise Agreement offer
I write in relation to the negotiations for a replacement Power and Water Enterprise Agreement (EA) which commenced on 19 March 2021.
Outlined below are the terms of a ‘without prejudice’ offer for a new enterprise agreement to replace the existing 2018-2021 Power and Water Enterprise Agreement (‘the current Agreement’). This offer takes into account the Single Bargaining Unit (SBU) made up of: the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and Professionals Australia (PA) bargaining issues and claims, and reflects the progress made during the negotiation meetings to date.
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.
The content of the proposal offer reflects the discussions and collaborative approach that has occurred since the commencement of the negotiations. This means there has been:
- genuine consideration and time to discuss the SBU’s claims, and Power and Water Corporation’s proposals including NTPS sector-wide common conditions;
- sharing of information such as costing of claims and proposals; and
- consideration of operational information including the application and interpretation of current agreement provisions.
The proposals set out below include consideration of the logs of claims received, which have been discussed during negotiation meetings to be incorporated into a new agreement or addressed through other mechanisms.
- Term of Agreement
It is proposed the new agreement (the 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 provisions whereby no involuntary redundancies arise as a result of implementing the new Agreement.
- Lump sum payment
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 1 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.
Improved NTPS Common Conditions
- Incorporate PSEM by-law leave entitlements in the Agreement
Under the Agreement, leave without pay, miscellaneous leave and meal allowance entitlements refer to the By-laws. 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’, ‘Defence Service Leave’ (see Item 15 below for this entitlement) and ‘Leave to Engage in Voluntary Emergency Management Activities’ (See Item 8 below for an enhancement to this entitlement.)
- Leave for disabilities caused by war service (War Service 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. 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.
- NAIDOC March and approved activities
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.
- Foster and Kinship Carer leave
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 entitlements improved to provide 2 days paid leave (currently unpaid) to attend Permanent Care Order interviews.
- Gender Transition Leave
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 granted by the CEO on a case-by-case basis.
- Leave to engage in voluntary emergency management activities
This is a new clause that transfers Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18) in relation to volunteering for emergency management activities into the Agreement. The existing By-law 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.
- 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 (refers to cl 78.2 (a) of the current Agreement and replaces cl 78.4(a) where CEO has discretion to grant an extra 2 days of paid leave);
- 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
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 2 hours 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 2 hours of paid leave.
- Flexible Lifestyle Leave
The ‘Purchase of Additional Leave (Purchased Leave)’ in Schedule 6 clause 3 of the current Agreement would be re-named ‘Flexible Lifestyle Leave’ and enhanced to allow employees to request up to 8 weeks additional leave (currently maximum 6 weeks) per year and to take the leave in blocks of 2 days (currently 1 week minimum).
This is a scheme that 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.
- Returning from Parental Leave
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 may be requested and approved by the CEO.
- Pre-natal Leave
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.
- Defence Service Leave
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.
- Transition to Retirement
This is a NEW entitlement. The Agreement would provide up to 2 hours of paid leave per annum (total 6 hours over 3 years) for employees aged 62 or older who are transitioning to retirement to seek independent financial advice about their superannuation and other financial matters. Paid leave can be approved where flextime or time off in lieu are not otherwise available.
- Principles for Casuals right to request conversion to ongoing employment
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 where the employee has worked a regular pattern of hours.
- Domestic and Family Violence Provisions
The existing domestic and family violence provisions in clause 90 of 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 in 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)
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.
- Inclusion of Power and Water specific provisions
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
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 to clause to highlight the importance.
- Use of Contractors for Core Work provisions
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.
- Extra Duty Allowance (EDA) improvements and clarification
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.
- Grand parenting the Industry Specific Skills Allowance (ISSA)
It is proposed that all existing employees who are in receipt of ISSA on the day prior to the commencement of a new Agreement will retain the allowance. In addition, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will have discretion to approve the allowance for difficult or hard to fill positions based on the recruitment and retention objectives of Power and Water.
- Flexible Working Hours (Flextime)
It is proposed to bring flextime provisions into line with the maximum allowable flexitime accrual from 5 days to 2, consistent with the NTPS Flextime Policy. In addition, the provisions relating to forfeiture of flextime will be removed from the Agreement.
- Accrual of additional recreation leave
It is proposed to remove the ability to accrue an extra week of recreation leave through additional hours and, to emphasise that employees will be able purchase additional leave, of up to 8 weeks per annum, through the rebranded “flexible lifestyle leave”.
- Additional commitments
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 as referred to below; and
- adequately resource all reviews.
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
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.
- Technical Coordinators to have access to Flextime/Work Life Balance options
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.
- Australian Defence Force (ADF) service to be recognised for prior service
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 eg breaks in service.
- Casual Employment
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.
- Include definitions for Ongoing, Fixed Period and Casual employment
Words are being included to provide clarity of employment arrangements.
- Improved conditions for call out and overtime
To address alarms/callouts of less than 3 or 4 hours (which provides ability for manager to stand down for rest break), and minimum payments for alarms, it is proposed on call rosters will ensure no employee is required to work more than two consecutive weeks. Employees can only be on call for 2 consecutive weeks and this can only continue for 3 months before a minimum of 2 weeks off on call.
Where an employee has to return to duty after 2200 and before 0600 (less than 3 hrs) then the manager considers fatigue issues and can approve a later start time in line with normal WHS considerations.
- New separate clauses for Apprentices / Graduates / Trainees
To emphasise specific provisions for Apprentices, Graduates and Trainees and clarifying the employment provisions which apply in the Agreement.
- Hosted Apprentices from an NTPS apprentice employer (or similar)
Hosted apprentices currently have their prior service recognised for LSL purposes 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.
- Apprentice intake
Commitment to have a guaranteed intake of 5 hosted apprentices per annum and retain the aspirational target of 10 Apprentices and with updates to include reference to targeting females and people from diverse cultures.
- Highlighting of health and safety:
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.
- Infectious Disease
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 Public Sector Employment and Management Act 1993. 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 at half pay as is currently the case.
- Retention of clauses/provisions
To address the claims related to the retention of existing clauses or provisions, it is proposed to:
- retain the existing clause regarding workloads
- maintain the existing requirement to consult prior to a decision being made
- retain the existing clause providing for no involuntary redundancies to occur directly as a result of implementing the Agreement.
- Improved Dispute Settling Procedures
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 exemptions in clause 14.2) and therefore ultimately arbitration by the Fair Work Commission. I have considered the SBU’s position and am prepared to amend the clause to allow disputes regarding refusals for requests for flexible work, in all circumstances, or to extend parental leave to be dealt with under the dispute settlement procedures through internal resolution and conciliation by the Fair Work Commission. An employee who has a grievance about their treatment in employment can choose to have the decision reviewed in accordance with section 59 of the PSEM Act.
- Work Life Balance and Family Friendly Provisions
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.
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.
- Inclusion of undertakings
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 agreed 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.
I have also considered other matters raised in the union log of claims provided on 25 March 2021. As discussed in negotiation meetings, there were some claims that could not be agreed to as they would not be in line with the NTPS Wages Policy (for example, increase to allowances).
I consider the above offer to represent a good package that provides an appropriate balance between job certainty, improved conditions for employees and which is within the NTPS Bargaining Policy. The offer also reflects the extensive and constructive discussions about issues raised by all parties during bargaining.
I look forward to continuing our productive discussions and reaching agreement, so we can implement the new terms and conditions of employment and provide the first $1000 lump sum payment in a timely manner.
Vicki Telfer PSM
Commissioner for Public Employment
16 July 2021
Last updated: 19 July 2021
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