Arbitration In Contempt
The Queensland Power Dispute
Wayne L Gilbert
I am delighted to be invited to speak to the H R Nicholls
Society on what I regard as one of the most important
and historic activities occurring in the Australian
industrial arena today. That, of course, is the deregulation
of the hitherto bound up industrial society and, hopefully,
the demise of rampant and militant union control of
this country that we have all seen probably since the
beginning of this century.
I am also pleased to be part of what I think is a
watershed in industrial relations in Australia. My
part in that watershed is the reason that I have been
asked to address this seminar, and I say again I am
extremely pleased to do so.
I think it is important to structure my paper in a
number of ways. I intend to spend some time addressing
the history of the basis of the dispute that occurred
in Queensland, and from there I will discuss what has
occurred since the dispute was finalised. I have a
complete chronology of the events leading up to the
current date, details of the legislative material enacted,
and a copy of our unique Contracts of Service.
SEQEB is an Electricity Distribution Authority---it
does not operate power stations---it buys electricity
from the Queensland Electricity Commission and sells
to 600,000 customers in south east Queensland.
Since the inception of SEQEB in 1977, there have been
many disputes concerning the use of private contractors.
In 1980, during the shorter hours dispute, agreement
was reached between the Government and the Unions (including
the ETU) on the use of private contractors, and was
embodied in the settlement as part of the quid pro
quo for the 9 day fortnight 36-and-a-quarter hour week deal, but
was defeated at a mass meeting of Unionists who nonetheless
took the shorter week and hours, but rejected the use
of contractors part of the deal---so much for negotiation,
and, may I say, the integrity of this militant trade
At the end of 1983, the Board needed to establish
and enforce a policy in relation to the use of private
contractors. In doing so, it set out a policy which,
whilst acceptable so far as the rest of Queensland
and Australia is concerned (both private and public
employers) departed from what SEQEB's past practice
had been. Historically, SEQEB employed the exclusive
use of day labour to do most forms of work to the exclusion
of contractors---in other words, the existing absolute
monopoly of day labour in SEQEB was to be broken, but
only to a minor extent contractors were envisaged for
peak lopping or seasonal work only.
When I arrived at the Board in February 1984, a developer
in a rural District decided (as is his right) to proceed
to reticulate a relatively small estate by contract
rather than employ SEQEB. The ETU took their predictable
course, that is, they imposed secondary bans and limitations
(refused to connect the estate), and certain strikes
took place in protest against the use of this private
After discussions with senior officers of the Trades
and Labor Council, I asked that negotiations take place
with the ETU on the question of setting up a contract
agreement with the unions to avoid future industrial
action. I did that knowing that in 1980, although agreement
on the use of private contractors had been reached
during the hours case, it was never put into effect
because of the duplicity of the Unions
Discussions took place and it was agreed as a forerunner
to a proper agreement that temporary labour
would be used to complete the small rural job, with
those temporary people being terminated at the end
of the project. This arrangement was in lieu of the
use of private contractors.
At that time, it suited me to at least have some understanding
with the union on the use of some private contractors.
In essence, what the ETU and SEQEB negotiators came
to was an agreement providing for -
- the use of permanent labour first, then temporary
labour, and then contract third;
- security of employment and even increasing establishment
- full and open consultation on the need to go to contract;
- definitions of where contractors would be used, e.g.
work peaks, specialisation, or specialised equipment,
etc. (Figure 1)
The time that I am referring to is July 1984. The
ETU negotiators put the proposal to the State Council
of their union and the result can be colloquially described
as, 'It was bounced'. Further attempts were made
after this to try to get the ETU to see reason, but
for one reason or another it would not or could not.
At the time of these negotiations, I had deliberately
held up four essential community projects which eventually
became a hub of the dispute. They were three transmission
lines and a major industrial substation and, as at
August 1984, they were well behind schedule because
I had not proceeded to advertise tenders for them as
I felt that we were close to reaching an agreement.
However, in August/September, I was in no other position
but to advise the union that time had run out; these
projects were definitely needed; they were behind time
already; and we had no alternative but to put them
to contract. The rest, of course, is history and history
that you would probably all well know. In essence,
what the union was doing was telling me how to run
the Board and they were trying to direct the future
of the Board, including the service to its consumers,
by the use of blatant force.
Bans and limitations were imposed on those jobs, strike
action took place, and in early December a number of
conferences were held before the State Industrial Commission.
At those conferences, the Commission not only saw the
need to reach a decision on contract labour, but indeed
recommended and ordered that discussions take place
between the parties to reach such agreement. I was
told by the State Industrial Commission that I had
to further delay the projects whilst this second round
of discussions rolled on.
The Commission recommended the draft ETU/SEQEB negotiated
agreement and the Union again rejected it.
I don't want to traverse the whole history of what
occurred since early December, except to point out
a number of things which perhaps would be of interest
to you; In the months of December and January, I suppose
we were in the State Industrial Commission on perhaps
20 occasions. (Figure 2)
During that time, recommendations were floating around
like confetti---as were orders. I felt, in the best
interests of SEQEB, and the public, that we had to
accede to the various forms of recommendations, and
I hoped that the union would do likewise. I say this
because, even then, the eleventh hour was on us and,
as the dispute assumed major proportions, I felt that
there was a goodwill amongst our individual employees,
but not shop stewards or union officials who were increasingly
The facts were that the ETU was completely out of
control. There were 1,500 of its members in SEQEB who
were organised by approximately 120 militant shop stewards.
There was no strong leadership from the hierarchy of
the union. The then secretary was about to retire and
he abrogated his responsibility to a junior organiser
who had come from the ranks of militant shop stewards.
Then Brisbane experienced its worst storm in many
years. On Friday the 18th January, 1985, a storm ravaged
the city at 4 p.m. At 6 o'clock I had just been told
by my senior staff that approximately 80,000 consumers---that is, nearly 250,000 Queenslanders---were without
supply. The ETU were on strike. In the Commission,
at an emergency sitting, the ETU union officials steadfastly
refused to allow or permit their members to return
to work, even though a number had defied their Union
and were on the job. After two hours argument, at 9
p.m., the Commission ordered, and the Electrical Trades
Union subsequently very reluctantly agreed, under duress,
to restore the power.
Given these circumstances and history, SEQEB decided
that compromises and accommodation were not likely
to produce a lasting peace. SEQEB and the Unions obviously
had failed to reach an acceptable understanding of
the use of contract labour---all bets were off---in
the public interest we would move to a Main Roads (significant
use of contract) type of operation. It was obvious
to me that we could not run the Board with the present
employees being directed by the union---the only option
available to us was to try it another way, and that
is why the use of private contract came very much to
In late January, the union again commenced strike
action, and that continued off and on through until
7 February 1985 when effectively 1,000 ETU employees
were on strike. I might add that all the way through
January and February the matter was before the State
Industrial Commission, and it was becoming apparent
that the intransigence of the ETU was growing.
The State Industrial Commission steadfastly refused
to arbitrate, despite being pressed for arbitration
by the Government and the Industry---the Government
for its part guaranteed it would abide by arbitration---the State Industrial Commission knew that the ETU
would repudiate any 'unacceptable' arbitration.
As the ETU became more intransigent, the State Industrial
Commission became weaker. When the ETU defied an order,
the State Industrial Commission put the reverse order
on SEQEB, a peace at any price philosophy, which avoided
the issues. This policy penalized the reasonable and
rewarded the use of muscle. The last back flip by the
State Industrial Commission was too much for the Government
who, faced with large numbers of consumers without
power, a State Industrial Commission that was worse
than impotent, declared a State of Emergency and withdrew
the electricity industry from the jurisdiction of the
State Industrial Commission. (Figure 3)
It was from 7 February 1985 that the Government issued
certain Proclamations and Orders in Council which had
as their purpose the declaration of a State of Emergency
under the Transport Act---an order for any person not
to obstruct, interfere with, or harass any person who
provides services or ordinary duties in connection
with the supply of electricity; an order for striking
SEQEB workers to return to work or be dismissed; an
order for the Electricity Commissioner to take whatever
steps he considered necessary to restore and maintain
supply of electricity; prescribed conditions for new
employees i.e. no strike, no union preference, 38 hour
week, 10 day fortnight etc.
As from 11 February, some 1,000 ETU members failed
to obey Orders in Council and they dismissed themselves
by failing to present for work. On this day approximately
30,000 residents of south east Oueensland were without
power and some had been without power for up to a week.
This is where the second stage of this dispute starts,
because from about 7 February, with the declaration
of a State of Emergency, or perhaps a little earlier,
the dispute had passed out of the hands of SEQEB into
the hands of Government.
I had told senior officials of the ETU some four weeks
before that such an action would happen. I had also
previously told senior officers of the Trades &
Labor Council of what would happen. For whatever reason
that did not worry them. In fact, they decided to treat
the Government with complete contempt. They thought
that they were running the State and could do so with
complete impunity, and, in my opinion, were savouring
a victory over the Queensland Government. Well, how
wrong they were.
Next the power station operators reduced output by
50% and so an Order for Rationing of Electricity was
issued by the Government, which effectively shut down
industry. Rotational load shedding commenced with a
'2 hours on-2 hours of' cycle---causing untold hardship
and misery throughout the State. It is even more incredible
to realise that power station operators were not on
strike. They were merely refusing to bring up the level
of power sufficient to meet the needs of the community.
This was an even more insidious act because, whilst
their bans and restrictions were crippling industry,
with half a million laid off, they were being paid,
and paid well---I'm told they are in the $45,000 plus
league. It has been estimated that the loss to the
State in economic terms was around $600 millions.
Something had to be done to restore power to relieve
the trauma being suffered throughout Queensland. Writs
were served on about 200 power station operators in
an attempt to get them back to work by preventing them
hindering the supply of electricity under the Industrial
(Commercial Practices) Act 1984. Yet before this matter
was heard in the Supreme Court of Queensland in Brisbane,
full power was restored and load shedding ceased. Why?
It is interesting also to note that, whilst the unions
treated the State Industrial Commission with impunity,
with contempt, they certainly did not when actions
were taken in the Supreme Court of Queensland---under
the Industrial (Commercial Practices) Act of 1984.
The main relevance, of course, in that respect, was
that SEQEB was seeking pecuniary damages and penalties
that are available under that Act. (Figure 4)
There are a few reasons why I believe power was suddenly,
after 10 days, restored to Queensland.
1. The writs issued on the operators personally along
with various Orders for them to return to work may
have weakened their will to keep the State in darkness.
2. Bill Kelty made a visit to Queensland. Perhaps
he expressed concern over the damaging effect the union's
actions might be having on the Cain Government's pending
3. The unions were under increasing pressure from
the community---half a million unionists were out of
work for 10 days and others were becoming more irate
with unions because of the recurring disruptions.
4. I must also mention here the Government's peace
plan offered to unions. It included a no-strike agreement
and a possible offer of re-employment to dismissed
SEQEB employees who re-applied for jobs. The unions
interpreted this as meaning the Industrial Commission
would order reinstatement of all dismissed SEQEB workers.
For whatever reason, full power was restored by 22
February 1985---10 days of 50% load shedding was over
and the community started to return to normal. (Figure
Now that power was restored, there had to be some
way of getting normal operations within SEQEB. With
between 30,000 and 40,000 people with no electricity,
we had to have the authority to get people to work
against Union threats and to do various things which
would provide for a continuing supply of electricity.
To that end, the Electricity (Continuity of Supply)
Act 1985 is important, and had to be enacted. This
Act included the power of direction. Our employees
at that time still at work (and there were approximately
600 of them, less than 50 in Brisbane, plus executives)
wanted protection by being directed to work.
Contractors also asked for direction as a protection
to them against subsequent action from Unions. Not
one contractor was directed against his will.
In the three weeks prior to the Assent to the Continuity
of Supply Act, there were seven acts of physical violence
and thirty one acts of heavy personal intimidation
against individual workers. Since that time, of course,
the tragic list of harassment and physical violence
has transcended anything that I would have or possibly
could have imagined. I could only describe them as
being barbarous acts which anybody in our society would
term thuggery. It is no wonder to me that, in the many
months following the dispute, and even up until the
present day, arrests continue. Legislation was necessarily
enacted to stop such brutal activity. Quite frankly,
I would not blame the Government if future legislation
in new form, or an amendment to the existing acts,
is brought into play to stop such wanton acts of violence.
The civil libertarians may protest but surely the law
abiding general public has rights.
What distinguishes electricity supply work from general
industry is that the great majority of it is done in
public places, where honest workers obeying the law
of the State, working in sometimes hazardous conditions,
are at a great disadvantage against demonstrators.
Those employees that dismissed themselves embarked
on a role of extreme harassment. Take one example.
A number of men were working at Fisherman's Island
up a pole between energised mains at 33,000 volts.
Along came a group of harassers (about 20). They interfered
with the work that was proceeding on the ground, threatened
people working in the air, and I don't know about you,
but I would want my mind firmly placed on what I was
doing in a live situation in those circumstances. Threats
were also made along the lines of 'When you are at
work, who is protecting your wife and kids?' Other
examples have come forward which are equally insidious.
Things such as, 'When we come back to work you will
never be safe. You might think you are working on dead
mains, and somebody's going to throw the switch and
fry you alive'. In a Wickham Terrace incident, a group
of cable jointers were working in a street pit between
live 11,000 volt mains when they were heckled and spat
upon. Cars have been vandalized, windows broken, and
countless abusive and obscene telephone calls directed
at workers' families.
Now, these are just examples of many many statements
and threats made against employees whilst they were
at work or, indeed, whilst at home. Freedom in our
society should mean freedom to work without intimidation.
You wonder why legislation has to be brought to bear
to stop this type of activity---it is only necessary
because of the extreme intimidation being used. I
am in no doubt that the direction provisions and the
anti-harassment provisions were, and are, essential.
Another step taken by the Government to assist harassed
workers was the passing of the Industrial Conciliation
and Arbitration Amendment Act 1985. One of the aims
of this Act was to make it possible for a union member
to resign from a union immediately, and not have to
give three months' notice, with dues up to that date.
There were many ETU members working for SEQEB who were
paying union dues on one hand and yet being abused
for working by union officials and other members on
the other. It is understandable that they would want
an easier way of resigning from the union in that situation
and this Act catered for that.
I think it is worth mentioning that this Act also
strengthened the definition of the term 'strike'. From
the original definition which referred to an employee's
cessation of work or refusal or failure to continue
to work, it now includes any ban, restriction or limitation
on the performance of work and any refusal or failure
to perform work required in accordance with their contract
of employment or any performance of work in a manner
other than that in which it is customarily performed.
The aim of the amendment was to broaden the meaning
of the term 'strike', and, with appropriate penalties
associated with its misuse, reduce the number of stoppages.
I come to the question of the establishment of the
new Electricity Authorities Industrial Causes Tribunal.
The union movement was using power station operators
as vampires against the public throat. The three major
power stoppages---where operators turned down the power---put off the lights---created additional unemployment
and enforced suffering on many---particularly the elderly
and the sick---were all cases where the operators were
acting in support of outside union causes. For example:
- 1979-80---Load Shedding over 9 days in support of
general claims for a 35 hour week;
- 18 August to 20 August 1982---Load shedding occurred
as a protest over Queensland Government's use of Essential
Services Act to evoke a State of Emergency during Queensland
Railway 38 hour week case;
- 1985---When secondary strike action in support of
the 1,000 SEQEB workers who dismissed themselves caused
blackouts for 10 days resulting in untold misery and
a loss to the State in economic terms estimated at
around $600 millions.
Not one of these blackouts was caused by a dispute
with the power station operators as such. Blackouts
had become a ready tool for militant Unionism.
The Government and the people of Queensland have now
come to a stage of expecting that essential services
should be free of strikes---electricity is vital and
must be always immediately available and that's one
good reason why the impotency of the State Industrial
Commission had to be replaced by a stronger body---
the Electricity Authorities Industrial Causes Tribunal.
The framework of the Tribunal is such that it can
deal with matters expeditiously and with more teeth
than that available to the State Industrial Commission.
Orders of the Commission should be regarded as sacrosanct.
The ETU rejected 5 out of 5 recommendations of the
State Industrial Commission, and 1 out of 5 Orders
of the State Industrial Commission, during this dispute.
Obviously the unions do not see the State Industrial
Commission as relevant and therefore new machinery
had to be brought into play to deal with that situation.
I reiterate that the establishment of the Electricity
Authorities Industrial Causes Tribunal was very necessary.
It has as its charter the fundamental issue of addressing
electricity industrial matters. It is competent to
deal specifically with industrial causes in the Industry
because it is a specialised Tribunal, and there are
many examples for that throughout the rest of Australia.
It is not just a sideline to the mainstream of 'clients
of the old State Industrial Commission'. In fact, it
has more teeth by virtue of its enacting legislation
than the Industrial Commission ever had. It has to
take into account the prosperity of the economy, the
economics of the electricity industry and electricity
consumers' interests, the effect on other industries
in Queensland, and the management of the authorities.
Surely this is necessary because, for so long now,
there has been scant regard for the capacity to pay
amongst Australian business---particularly when you
relate it to the dealings of the Australian Conciliation
and Arbitration Commission. For once business has its
way---and so it should, because how can people be employed
when no regard is had to the prevailing economic climate.
What it does is to deal with matters in the framework
of a no strike arena expeditiously and fairly, and
immediate access is a available to all parties in the
I would think you would all agree that that is certainly
not the case with the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration
I now turn from history to the present day.
What is immensely pleasing to me is what has happened
since the dispute. We have now over 200 new employees
in SEQEB, who happily commenced work after the dispute
under the 38 hours week 10 day fortnight and no strike
provisions, and a further 150 who returned under the
new conditions. There is a new ethos in SEQEB, and
one that is directed towards providing satisfaction
to the consumer. Our total workforce is down 950 or
20% on March 1983 levels. Our total controllable budget
in $ terms to 1986/87 is less than for 1983/84, despite
a growth in the network of approximately 6% per annum
compound for each of the three years, and inflation
at about 7% per annum---a saving over three years of
44%. Our service to the community is better than ever;
lost time accidents the lowest ever, and for twelve
months not a minute lost to industrial disputes. Work
practices have changed dramatically. No longer are
there traditional demarcation barriers that haunted
us for decades---they are all gone, and the result
of that is a massive increase in productivity of the
order of up to 40%, but averaging 30%, and a very substantial
cost saving of the order of $30 million per annum.
What we have now is not a union-directed workforce,
but a SEQEB-managed workforce, and the employees are
happier under this arrangement than they have been
for many many years. I am not saying that things are
perfect---of course they aren't, and never will be
in any organisation, particularly one that has been
through the turmoil that SEQEB has, but we are working
on that, and there are a number of new initiatives
that have come to the fore which are very interesting
and which I think you will find enlightening as well.
I suppose it is human nature that people like to form
themselves into groups---for self-protection, for interests,
whatever, it seems to be a natural way of life. This
is exactly what happened in SEQEB. With the demise
of the ETU and the hatred that our employees have of
their previous union, a group was formed. That group
quite deliberately, did not want to be seen as a union,
but wanted to have close ties with management and raise,
in a proper fashion, matters of concern. That group
(and it is growing) now includes approximately 400
people. They have formed themselves into a Trust, they
have arranged their own financing, and now, when matters
come before the new Electricity Authorities Industrial
Causes Tribunal, they hire their own industrial advocate
who is not bound up with the intricacies of the Industrial
Relations Club, and he puts forward their case to the
Tribunal. The unions hitherto have refused to attend
because they do not recognise the Tribunal. It is important
for these employees to appear in the Tribunal because
that is the way in which wage justice can be achieved.
Quite recently, I am pleased to tell you, that same
group of employees have briefed their own Counsel and
they are seeking leave to appear in Federal proceedings
taken by various unions seeking Federal awards. The
Employees Trust is opposed to a Federal Award. The
unions have opposed the right of the Trust to appear.
The Trust members are in fact opposing their previous
unions because they want to stay in the deregulated
industrial scene in Queensland.
The Trust has even gone further. It now sees itself
as a forerunner to an Industry-based union and has
committed itself to the State system set up under the
Electricity Authorities Industrial Causes Act. It is
currently seeking registration in the Electricity Authorities
Industrial Causes Tribunal as an industrial union of
employees, under the name Queensland Power Workers
Association. Let me say it does not see itself in the
same light as traditional unions---it couldn't bring
itself to be called a union. It merely wishes to be
a legally recognised representative body looking after
the interests of its members and, at the same time,
challenging the right of other unions to continue with
their militant role. Quite frankly, I support this
approach as it is a marked turn-around to what I have
seen over many years.
Alongside that group, another group was formed---more
of a Staff Association---again away from the traditionalism
of unions. That Staff Association is also looking after
the interests of its members in a non-confrontist and
If these groups develop as I expect them to, they
will become embryonic twins, or industry unions, free
of outside influence---under the umbrella of the State
Electricity Authorities Industrial Causes Tribunal.
One of the other big things that has occurred since
the dispute is the question of personal Contracts of
Service. By legislation, the Government empowered me
to enter into individual personal contracts with employees.
Rather than to go through the fine details of the contracts,
(essentially they are common law contracts between
us and the individual employee) legally enforceable,
which provide for a prohibition of strike, no union
preference under any circumstances, a return to a more
acceptable (so far as the community is concerned) working
pattern, i.e. 38 hour week 10 day fortnight instead
of 36 hour week 9 day fortnight, recognition of managerial
prerogative, and other things which give the employer
flexibility in managing its own operation. What that
means is that there is no demarcation under any circumstances.
A copy of the contract is appended to this paper.
Now, whilst these contracts are embryonic at this
stage, they are being signed, and some 100 people have
availed themselves of that opportunity. I confidently
expect the list of people to grow. The contract is
for three years, and there is a consideration of 71Ú2%
paid yearly in consequence of their signing the contract
after the event, provided the contract is honoured.
A feeling of deja-vu swept over me the other day when
I read Rupert Murdoch's conditions for Print Union
labour at his own London printery. He reportedly sought
1. Legally binding agreements;
2. A no strike deal;
3. No closed shop; and
4. Confirmation of management's right to manage.
His former Unionists said 'No' with their feet and
are now, like our former Unionists, out of work and
with no prospects.
His four conditions (and we now have them) should
be part of an employer's 'Bill of Rights' as a condition
for permanent employment.
However, back to SEQEB.
When I said that there was a new ethos in SEQEB, it
does not only relate to the employees, it relates to
a new style of doing things. What I am encouraging,
and what is being accepted within SEQEB, is a feeling
that you don't have to inveigle the help of other people
or a militant union to get things done, or to address
the problems. It is encouraging to me that there is
a personal tie between SEQEB and the individual employee.
It exists because they know that being personal with
the employer brings far greater results and is more
satisfying because individual problems can be dealt
with on an individual basis. I intend to encourage
that feeling. Of course, the greatest example of that
is the personal Contracts of Service which is personal
between SEQEB and the individual.
It has been public knowledge that, since the dispute,
the union movement generally in Queensland is seeking
to have Federal award coverage. Like lemmings over
the cliff, they are trying to jump helter-skelter out
of the deregulated Queensland industrial scene into
the Federal regulated arena. We are opposing them,
and with vehemence, and will continue to do so until
the right result is achieved. We have battles ahead
undoubtedly, but the pleasing thing is we are not alone
in opposing these Federal moves. As I said, our own
employees are backing us to the hilt. They are being
opposed by their former Unions. (Figure 10)
In Queensland we are seeking under our State system
a consolidated and modified Electricity Industry Award.
Previously, my Board had 18 Awards and 14 unions with
the associated headaches of disparity between various
classes of employees. What we are seeking to do is
threefold. Firstly, we are seeking to standardise provisions
between various classes of workers. Secondly, we are
deliberately cutting out the rorts that used to exist
under previous awards and agreements. Thirdly, we are
aiming for a single Industry Award from the base labourer,
to the most senior level, that provides for no demarcation
barriers or historical industrial tools which slowed
up commerce in this country over many many years. That
award is currently being processed before the Electricity
Authorities Industrial Causes Tribunal and I hope that,
in the fullness of time, it will become a reality.
As I said, there are a number of hurdles we have to jump
in the Federal arena, but I am confident that we will,
and that this new industrial award can become a blueprint,
perhaps in a small way, for some other organisations
in Australia. I believe the unions have had their chance,
and maybe they have even had their day. Let me say,
it is a lot more pleasing to me to deal with my own
employees than a representative of the union who has
no allegiance to the Board, its customers, or even,
as has been shown, the employees who are its members.
What freedom is there about a union clique dictating
to the whole of the community how they should live;
defying elected governments and the laws of the State.
Is freedom allowing a bunch of non-peaceful protesters
to intimidate and endanger the lives of people doing
their lawful jobs to provide an essential service to
the community? Of course it's not.
What about a Bill of Rights for law abiding citizens,
a bill of rights for employers?
What about real justice in an arbitral system?
What about an arbitral system in which coercion has
The SEQEB Dispute is over---finished---the dispute
is now about the rights of all citizens---of Queenslanders---to enjoy their lifestyle in safety with all essential
services guaranteed---free of intimidation from an
aggressive minority, free of the excesses of union
power---free of the abuse of union militancy.
SEQEB operating costs are down by 15-20%---we are
saving $25-30m annually now. This will grow to $37m
next year. This reduction in operating costs can be
partly attributed to the lack of industrial disputation
within SEQEB. Since SEQEB's inception some eight years
ago, there was an average of 30,000 man hours lost
each year due to strikes, at a cost of $500,000 per
annum. That figure, I am pleased to inform you, has
now been reduced to zero. Since the dispute finished
some twelve months ago, not one minute has been lost
due to strikes.
As taxpayers, you will be interested in how these
savings have arisen, and they are tabulated below.
SUMMARY OF COST SAVINGS
700 employees $12.7M P A
USE OF PRIVATE CONTRACTORS
Value of Contracts $1 2M P.A.
Saving over day labour costs $3.6M P A
INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY through day including -
Improved attitude to work
No output limiting arrangements
No demarcation limits $14.7M P A
As at January 1986 $31.0M P A
Elimination of non-essential activities -
to be phased out, including
Appliance Trading $1.0M P A
Building Maintenance $1.0M P A
Vehicle Maintenance $0.5M P A
Sale of Surplus Assets annualized $3.5M P A
ANNUALISED SAVINGS approx. $37.0m
Of th $37M savings, two-thirds or $24M is directly
attributable to changed labour practices. Of the remainder,
nearly $4M to the use of contractors on piece work
rates, and the residue, $9M, to a general tightening
of management and elimination of wasteful practices
or non-essential activities.
SEQEB is doing fine, and, more importantly, so are
its consumers. Of that I am proud.
Our service is better than ever, our costs are down,
and our employees largely contented---the only cloud
on our horizon and our workers' horizon is the claim
by Unions for Federal intervention.
I am proud to be part of a 1985 select club like Mudginberrir---like Dollar Sweets---and I hope quite a few more
in the future.
The Proposed Contract Labour Agreement Between SEQEB
and the ETU
1. After consultation between parties, contractors
to be used:
(a) where work volume beyond SEQEB's capacity;
(b) where specialisation beyond SEQEB's capacity;
(c) where in public interest to expedite such work.
2. Where work peaks exist, work to be done:
(a) by existing SEQEB staff---if not, then
(b) appropriate temporary employees---if not,
(c) then contractors.
3. Work traditionally done by contractors to continue.
(a) will not impair security of SEQEB staff's employment;
(b) will not be used to avoid increasing staff;
(c) advice of intended use passed on to ETU before
The ETU unilaterally REJECTED this agreement.
ETU Responses To Orders And Recommendations Issued
Date Orders Complied Recommendation Order/Recommendation
with by ETU accepted by ETU
5/12/84 No Striking workers return to work.
6/12/84 Yes Striking workers return to work.
19/12/84 Yes Re-issued orders from 6/12/84.
8/1/85 No Parties to accept draft contract labour agreement.
18/1/85 Yes Striking workers ordered to return to
work after severe hailstorm.
6/2/85 No Striking workers to return to work and
7/2/85 No Striking workers to return to work and
conference to be held under Commission's chairmanship.
10/2/85 No Lift ban, limitations, return to work.
14/2/85 No Power station staff to return to work
THE PROCLAMATION OF STATE OP EMERGENCY AND SIGNIFICANT
ORDERS IN COUNCIL
- Thursday, 7 February 1985. By order in Council No.
25a, the Governor in Council proclaimed a State of
Emergency pursuant to the State Transport Act.
- Thursday, 7 February 1985. By Order in Council No.
25B, it was ordered that a person shall not either
alone or in concert with any other person -
(a) do any act which will interfere with a person
doing his duties ordinarily performed in execution
of contract of employment;
(b) do any act which will interfere with a person
voluntarily carrying out duties associated with the
supply of electricity;
(c) do any act calculated to harass, annoy or cause
harm or distress to persons in (a) or (b) above.
- Friday, 8 February 1985. By order in Council No.
25C, pursuant to the proclamation of a State of Emergency,
it was ordered that any person employed by SEQEB to
resume duty when required by his rosters and then to
perform such duties he would normally perform. Failure
to do so would mean immediate dismissal.
- Friday, 8 February 1985. By Order in Council No.
25D the Electricity Commissioner was directed to take
whatever steps he considered necessary to have work
performed to restore and maintain the supply of electricity.
- Monday, 11 February 1985. By Order in Council No.
32, it was ordered that any person employed by SEQEB
during the emergency under the Electrical Engineering
Award-State enter into a contract of service with---
a 38 hour week a 10 day fortnight no union preference
prohibition against strike action.
- Tuesday, 12 February 1985. By order in Council No.
34, it was ordered that any employee of the Queensland
electricity industry is to comply with direction of
the Electricity Commissioner or person authorised by
him to restore and maintain supply of electricity or
be liable to summary dismissal.
POSSIBLE REASONS WHY POWER WAS RESTORED TO QUEENSLAND
1. Striking workers lost their will to continue strike
following Orders and writs being issued.
2. Bill Kelty's visit to Queensland---was this debacle
by the unions going to affect the Cain Government's
chances in the pending Victorian election?
3. Pressure from Community -
(i) Unionists---1Ú2 million out of work for 10 days
(ii) Others---anti-union because of recurring disruptions.
4. Premier's Peace Plan
- proposed a return to work with no strike clause
- offered re-employment to dismissed SEQEB employees
who re-applied for positions
- re-employment under no strike, 38 hour week, 10
day fortnight conditions
- re-employment only offered if dismissed employee
not involved in harassment of others.
MAJOR PROVISIONS ELECTRICITY (CONTINUITY OF SUPPLY)
- Electricity Commissioner to ensure supply of electricity
by whatever means.
- Dismissal and penalty for failure to comply with
a direction of the Electricity Commissioner (penalty
- Prohibition from harassment or obstruction of persons
carrying out duties ensuring supply of electricity
- Contracts of Service entered into by persons with
SEQEB shall contain
- 38 hour week
- prohibition on strike action
- waiving of preference of employment to unionists
- Removal of the State Industrial Commission's jurisdiction
to cover the Electricity Supply Industry.
- Penalties incurred under the Act recoverable by way
MAJOR PROVISIONS CONTAINED IN INDUSTRIAL CONCILIATION
AND ARBITRATION ACT AMENDMENT ACT 1985
- An expansion of the definition of 'strike' to encompass
all forms of industrial activity, e.g. overtime bans,
limitation on work, and refusal to carry out lawful
- Relaxation of 3 months' notice of intention to resign
from a Trade Union to immediate resignation subject
to being financial at the effective date of resignation.
- The insertion of a provision making it unlawful to
incite and encourage strike action.
- A Full Bench can mandatorily declare non compliance
with an Order; this gives Governor-in-Council power
to suspend or cancel registration of a Union.
- Power to direct secret ballots to provide for only
5% of the number of employees involved, or 250, whichever
- Non-unionists not to be prejudiced in employment.
MAJOR POWER STOPPAGES CAUSED BY POWER STATION OPERATORS
Covered car park dispute---load shedding over 2 days.
Load shedding over 9 days in support of general claims
for a 35 hour
22 October 1980
Load shedding (sporadic) over claims in relation to
8-11 July 1981
Load shedding over 3 days in protest against SECQ intervention
over a QEGB award matter.
18-20 August 1982
Load shedding occurred as a protest over Queensland
Government's issue of Essential Services Act to evoke
a State of Emergency during Queensland Railway 38 hour
Sporadic load shedding in protest against a control
room being fitted with a surveillance camera
Load shedding (1 day) over subsidised housing---Tarong
Limited bad shedding, over a 3 week period, over subsidised
12-22 February 1985
Secondary strike action in support of the 1,000 SEQEB
workers who dismissed themselves.
MAJOR PROVISIONS ELECTRICITY AUTHORITIES INDUSTRIAL
- Establishment of an Electricity Authorities Industrial
Causes Tribunal with more powers than the State Industrial
- The removal of jurisdiction of the State Industrial
Commission from hearing disputes in the Electricity
- Reference to arbitration if requested by one of the
parties to a dispute (not provided for in Industrial
Conciliation and Arbitration Act).
- Factors to be considered by the Tribunal when considering
matters brought to it
(a) the prosperity of the economy of Queensland;
(b) the economics of the operation of Electricity
Authorities in Queensland, the particular Authority
in question, and the consumers' interest therein;
(c) the effects of any decision made on other sectors
of industry within Queensland;
(d) the role and responsibilities of management of
- Part IV prescribes conditions of employment in electricity
callings covering -
1. Negation of preference
2. Illegality of strike
3. Discharge of contract of employment for strike
4 Discharge of Industrial Agreements by striking
persons parties to same
5. Penalties for strike action -
(a) dismissal without notice
(b) suspension without pay for as long as employer
PRINCIPLES OF VOLUNTARY CONTRACT OF SERVICE
1. It is entirely VOLUNTARY.
2. It is a common law contract between SEQEB and the
Employee (NO UNION INVOLVEMENT).
3. It PROVIDES that the employee WILL -
(i) Recognise continuity of supply of electricity
must be protected at all times
(ii) Work 38 hrs per week 10 days a fortnight.
(iii) Not strike.
(iv) Work where and when required.
(v) Live away from home if required.
(vi) Abide by any lawful instruction of the employer.
(vii) Refer any unresolved dispute to the State Tribunal
and abide by the Tribunal's decision
(viii) Acknowledge the State legislation and understand
that NO union preference exists.
4. The Employer agrees -
(i) To provide permanent employment (except for misconduct).
(ii) To renew contract on expiry (3 years).
(iii) Pay consideration of 71Ú2% of gross earnings in
December each year.
REASONS FOR NEW ELECTRICITY INDUSTRY AWARD
- 1. To standardize provisions between various classes
- 2. To cut out the rorts that used to exist under previous
awards and agreements
- 3. To have a single Industry Award from the base labourer
upwards which contains no demarcation barriers or historical
industrial tools which hinder productivity.
Contract of Service
THIS CONTRACT is made BETWEEN
(hereinafter called 'the employee') of the one part
and THE SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND ELECTRICITY BOARD (hereinafter
called 'the employer') of the other part.
1. BASIC TENETS
WHEREAS the parties have agreed that the employer
wishes to engage the services of the employee for the
purpose of carrying out the functions and duties of
the employer under the Electricity Act 1976 (as amended);
AND WHEREAS the employee has agreed to enter
into a Contract of Service with the employer pursuant
to, and in accordance with the provisions of the Electricity
Authorities Industrial Causes Act 1985 (as amended)
for the purposes of such engagement;
AND WHEREAS the parties have agreed that such
engagement is, and always remains, subject to the following
basic understanding as to the intent of the parties
in signing this Contract, namely:
Permanency in employment
(a) to provide permanent employment for the employee
with the employer subject to the terms hereof;
Continuity of supply of electricity
(b) in consideration of (a), the employee acknowledges,
and will continue to so acknowledge throughout the
duration of this Contract, that the continuity and
maintenance of the supply of electricity to all consumers
within the employer's area is of fundamental importance
to the employer's objectives, and to the discharge
of the employer's functions and duties pursuant to
the Electricity Act 1976 (as amended), and must be
preserved and protected at all times. The supply of
electricity for these purposes is acknowledged to include
all such ancillary services as are presently operating
or as may be established from time to time in support
of the primary objectives of the employer.
NOW THIS DEED WITNESSES:
2. DURATION OF CONTRACT
(a) This contract remains in force for a period of
years commencing the..............................
day of ....................................198...
unless sooner terminated, altered, or amended according
to the terms hereof or by mutual consent of the parties.
(b) Commencing the first day of October, 1988, discussions
shall be held between the parties with the intent of
both parties that a further Contract of Service be
signed on or before first November, 1988, to provide
for service by the employee to the employer after that
(c) If, on the expiry date of this Contract and hereinbefore
mentioned, this Contract has not been terminated by
the employer by reason of the breach thereof by the
employee, and the parties have not entered into a former
Contract of Service in an extension of, or in substitution
for, this Contract, the employer shall forthwith employ
the employee as and from that expiry date subject to,
and in accordance with, the applicable award or industrial
agreement referred to in Clause 3(b) herein in respect
of the position and/or calling of the employee at the
said expiry date, SAVE AND EXCEPT that, in the case
of an employee who was, immediately prior to the signing
of this Contract, either:
(i) employed pursuant to a contract made or continued
pursuant to Section 7 of the Electricity (Continuity
of Supply) Act 1985 (as amended), or
(ii) not employed by the employer, and was a person
described in Section 7(2) of the said Act as being
eligible to be employed under such contract,
the employer shall employ the employee as and from
the expiry date of this Contract upon the terms and
conditions as are prescribed on that date in Section
7(3) of the said Act, or any further or other provision
amending or replacing same. For the purpose of calculating
length of service and other entitlements under such
award, agreement or contract, the employer shall deem
all employment under this Contract to have been employment
under the said award, agreement or contract in the
same manner as if this Contract had not existed.
3. CONDITIONS OF SERVICE
(a) Subject to, and in accordance with, the provisions
of the Electricity (Continuity of Supply) Act 1985,
and the Electricity Authorities Industrial Causes Act
1985, and in addition to the rights, duties and obligations
conferred and imposed by the said Acts, the employee
shall render such services as may be required by the
employer from time to time, and more particularly shall:-
Hours of Work
(i) work a minimum thirty eight (38) ordinary hours
per week over a ten (10) day fortnight, on a day work
or shiftwork as applicable, and over a spread of hours
as specified in the appropriate award, agreement or
Not to participate in a strike
(ii) not either directly or indirectly participate
in, incite, counsel or abet a strike as defined in
Section 5 of the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration
Act, 1961-1985, or any Act passed in substitution or
No union preference
(iii) acknowledge that preference in employment in
relation to union membership shall form no part of
the requirements of the employer in considering the
engagement, or continuation in employment, of employees;
(iv) work shift work as, when, and where reasonably
required by the employer;
Work where required
(v) carry out all duties pursuant to this Contract
in any district or location as the employer may direct
from time to time;
(vi) live away from home at such locations and for
such periods as may be reasonably required by the employer
for the purpose of enabling the employee to properly
and efficiently discharge all duties of the employee
under this Contract;
Dispute settling procedure
(vii) refer or concur in the reference of any unresolved
industrial dispute to the Electricity Authorities Industrial
Causes Tribunal for determination, and together with
the employer unreservedly accept the decision of that
(viii) abide by any lawful instruction of the employer
and carry out all duties pursuant to this Contract
as efficiently and expeditiously as possible, and,
without derogating from the generality of the foregoing,
carry out any form of work required by the employer
in accordance with the calling of the employee, and
in the event of any actual or threatened interruption
to, or deprivation of, the supply of electricity, carry
out any work required by the employer to provide, maintain
or restore a supply of electricity, subject to the
employee being suitably and properly qualified and
(b) Subject to the foregoing provisions, the engagement
of the employee hereunder shall be on the same terms
and conditions as are contained in the award or industrial
agreement under which the employee would have been
employed if this Contract had not existed, and any
alteration, variation or amendment to such award or
agreement by any competent tribunal shall be deemed
to effect a corresponding alteration, variation or
amendment to this Contract, provided only that in the
event of any inconsistency between the terms of that
award or agreement, and the terms of this Contract,
then the terms of this Contract shall prevail to the
extent of any such inconsistency. Such award or industrial
agreement is hereinafter called 'the applicable Award'.
(c) For the purposes of this Contract, the employee
agrees and acknowledges that the rights, duties and
obligations conferred or imposed upon employees in
electricity callings by the provisions of the Electricity
(Continuity of Supply) Act 1985 and the Electricity
Authorities Industrial Causes Act 1985, are expressly
included as terms and conditions of this Contract,
to the same effect as if those provisions of those
Acts were expressly set forth herein. In the event
that the said Acts or either of them are amended, or
any Act is enacted in substitution therefor during
the continuation of this Contract, this Contract shall
be deemed to be amended accordingly.
4. IN CONSIDERATION of the foregoing and of
this Contract, and subject to compliance by the employee
with the terms of this Contract, the employer shall
pay to the employee, in the first pay period of December
each year for the duration of this Contract, a lump
sum which is equivalent to seven and one-half percentum
(71Ú2%,) of the annual gross earnings (excluding any
sum paid under this clause) paid by the employer to
the employee over the twelve months preceding the First
day of November in each year, (which date is hereinafter
called 'the assessment date' or over such proportion
of twelve months as shall have been served under the
Contract as at the assessment date, which payment shall
be in addition to the wage or salary to which the employee
shall be otherwise entitled under the Contract. In
the event of the termination of this Contract by reason
of the voluntary resignation or death of the employee
less than twelve (12) months after the assessment date,
a pro-rata payment shall be calculated accordingly,
and paid to the employee or their personal representative
upon such resignation or death as the case may be.
For the purposes of this Clause, no amount shall be
included in the gross annual earnings of the employee
in respect of any monies paid to the employee by way
of reimbursement of expenses incurred by the employee
in the course of their employment hereunder.
In addition to the rights and obligations conferred
and imposed by the Electricity (Continuity of Supply)
Act 1985 and the Electricity Authorities Industrial
Clauses Act 1985, this Contract and the engagement
of the employee may be terminated by the employer upon
the giving of such notice (if any) as is prescribed
in the applicable Award, upon the grounds that the
employee has been guilty of:
(a) serious misconduct in relation to their employment
(b) conduct inconsistent with the express intent and
terms of this Contract;
and no other grounds.
Upon such termination of this Contract by the employer:-
(i) the employee shall forfeit all entitlement to
payment of any part of the seven and one-half per centum
(71Ú2%) lump sum referred to in clause 4 hereof, as may
have accrued at the date of such termination; and
(ii) subject to (i), all pecuniary entitlements of
the employee shall be deemed to be such as would be
payable if the employee had been employed at all material
times under the applicable Award in lieu of this Contract.
The employee may terminate this Contract prior to
the expiry thereof by way of resignation from the service
of the employer in accordance with the provisions of
the applicable award, whereupon both parties shall
henceforth be released and discharged from all obligations,
liabilities and entitlements whatsoever under this
Contract accruing or arising after such termination
SIGNED SEALED AND DELIVERED
by the said
this day of , 198
in the presence of:
A Justice of the Peace
THE SEAL of THE SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND ELECTRICITY
BOARD was hereunto affixed pursuant to a resolution
of the Board made on the day of
WAYNE LLOYD GILBERT, General Manager, in the
CECIL VINCENT WEBSTER, Secretary, both in the
A Justice of the Peace