Transgrid sparkies strike risks power outages across NSW

Jarrod
By Jarrod
4 Min Read

Nearly 400 sparkies working for Transgrid will down tools today in a fight for higher wages, potentially leaving homes with lengthy power outages across NSW and the ACT.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has been battling the company over poor worker pay and dodgy conditions since October last year, with leaders calling for a pay rise of 8 per cent each year over three years to match the rising cost of living.

Transgrid has continually refused the demands and instead proposed what the union describes as an “abysmal” offer of a 5 per cent increase in year one, followed by 4 per cent in the following two years.

“Day in, day out, our members power our schools, hospitals, workplaces and homes by maintaining the backbone of the electricity system,” said ETU NSW and ACT Secretary Allen Hicks

“But their hard work is met with inadequate compensation and abysmal pay offers.

“Our electrical workers are indispensable amidst a national skills shortage in the energy transmission sector. As Australia works towards net zero, Transgrid’s tightfistedness threatens to drive out more tradies and slow down the renewable energy transition.

Mr Hicks also accused the foreign-owned group of continually lowballing Aussie workers in favour of shipping massive profits to their offshore shareholders.

“Transgrid must do the decent thing and pay its essential workforce a decent salary. We can’t live without our tradies, but our tradies can’t afford the cost of living,” he added.

Today’s strike will mean any faults on TransGrid’s high-voltage transmission network will remain until workers are back on the job, potentially putting 3 million homes and businesses across the states at risk of lengthy power outages. 

“Transgrid would rather risk the integrity of the high voltage transmission network and create delays on critical projects than pay its workers a decent wage,” Mr Hicks said.

The ETU has promised that any life-threatening emergencies during the 24-hour strike would be responded to. 

The union will also be undertaking a number of other protected actions, including bans on locking (the locking and unlocking of padlocks and substations) and bans on using Transgrid credit cards to buy goods and services for the company.

A fight for fair conditions

While pay disputes might dominate talks between the union and Transgrid, ETU members also called out the energy giant for their shockingly poor working conditions on sites across the country.

Taking to social media this morning, the group released a scathing video in the style of TikTok’s latest #ofcourse trend unearthing several worksite hazards found by workers. 

Ranging from sewage leaks from portaloos and a lack of proper PPE to no running water on site, the damning footage only bolsters the union’s claims of the company cutting corners. 

“We’re Transgrid, of course we take government money and treat workers like S#@T,” says an ETU spokesperson in the footage. 

Late last year, ETU officials also accused the company’s Project Energy Connect—Australia’s largest energy transmission project—of multiple safety breaches that led to one line worker’s severe leg injury, which required over 50 stitches. 

ETU National Industry Coordinator Matt Murphy, who visited the Project multiple times and spoke to workers who had concerns about safety, said the conditions were disgraceful.

“For this to be the standard on a project that receives government funding is unbelievable,” he said.

“It is a huge red flag that these contractors have been trying to prevent the Union from investigating these issues on site, and the government can’t ignore them.”

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Jarrod
By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.