30 November 2023

ETU, AMWU workers picket Urban Utilites HQ in Fortitude Valley

Utilita Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) members have taken protected industrial action on Wednesday and Thursday, picketing at Urban Utilities headquarters in Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley on Thursday morning.

Union members picketed in front of Urban Utilities on Thursday with the aim to have the network operator put pressure on Utilita. Utilita, a joint venture between Downer and Ventia, provides staffing for Urban Utilities.

“Members have endorsed taking more action before the end of the year,” says ETU Organiser Wendel Moloney. “Urban Utilities needs to get Utilita to the table to avoid interruptions in the lead up to the busy Christmas season. The workers are locked in and committed to seeing this out and getting their well-deserved pay increase.”

Workers are asking for a pay rise above CPI this year, after five years of almost stagnant wages despite skyrocketing cost-of-living and ever-rising inflation in Brisbane.

“Workers have taken minimal pay rises the last three years, and 0% the two years before that,” says Moloney. “Even with the increase we’re fighting for, these workers will still be behind given their stagnant wages in the past.

“These workers have been taking 0 or minimal pay increases to prop up the ever-growing profits of big businesses. Downer and Ventia aren’t short on a dollar, and these essential workers are the ones on the ground.

“Instead of putting pencil to paper and negotiating in good faith, Utilita bosses were out taking photos and video of workers on strike, and trying to block off the footpath in front of the depot and office during the picket on Wednesday. Utilita needs to have more respect for its work force.”

“Downer and Ventia are multi-billion-dollar companies,” says ETU State Secretary Peter Ong. “A fair pay rise for these workers is well within their budgets. Utilita workers, like many working Australians are doing the work on the ground, and big businesses are reaping the profits and trying to deny them a decent pay rise to ensure they’re not effectively going backwards. It’s disgraceful.”

Along with the pay increases, workers are also calling for reclassification of employment levels and the company’s commitment not to use sub-contractors to undertake work direct employees can complete, and ensure ‘same job, same pay’.

“It’s not just about the pay rise,” says Moloney. “It’s also about job security and stopping the employers undercutting wages by bringing in subcontractors and paying them less.”

“While combined union members are locked in to take protected action, the workers are committed to attending any emergency callouts and breakdowns where customer safety is at risk,” says Moloney.

For more information, please call Wendel Moloney on 0409 769 625 or Peter Ong on 0419 721 046