Chaos looms for Sydney locals this summer as workers at the city’s peak water management body threaten to walk off the job – a move they have called the “final warning” to the company.
Union-aligned workers at Sydney Water will on Tuesday vote in a protected action ballot on a raft of industrial measures, including whether they stop work for up to three days next season.
The act marks the culmination of a bitter, ongoing industrial dispute with management over fair conditions and pay.
If voted through, the stop work order could result in workers refusing to sign contractors into work sites or bill customers already in debt.
The Australian Services Union (ASU) says Sydney Water’s proposed enterprise agreement with the workers would have made them work longer hours for much less pay, and in dangerous conditions.
ASU NSW & ACT Secretary Angus McFarland said the protected action ballot was another sign of workers’ frustration and growing anger.
He claimed worker morale was at “rock bottom” and they were fed up.
“Sydney Water workers will not accept a deal that takes them backwards and significantly undermines their rights at work,” Mr McFarland said.
“These workers are completely fed up with management’s refusal to shift on their unreasonable position.
“If management continues to ignore workers, industrial action will occur.”
Sydney Water services more than 5 million customers in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Illawarra regions.
It employees more than 3000 people.
Mr McFarland said strike action was not being taken lightly.
“They’re proud of the work they do providing safe and reliable water supply to millions of people everyday. The fact they are now at the point of taking industrial action is a sign of how serious this situation has become,” he said.
“Sydney Water management needs to step up and show some leadership before it’s too late.”
In a statement, Sydney Water said they were working “tirelessly for a resolution” with the unions, seeking support from the Fair Work Commission.
“Following feedback from our staff, Sydney Water offered a number of additional proposals, which have all been rejected by the unions,” a spokeswoman said.
“Last week, the Fair Work Commission urged unions to present Sydney Water with a fair and reasonable counter offer.
Both parties will return to the commission on October 5 to try and reach an agreement.
“We are disappointed the unions decided to lodge an application for strike action before presenting a counter offer to reach an agreement,” the company spokeswoman said.
“Sydney Water is doing everything possible to avoid any disruption to our customers and employees during the negotiation process.”
9 News reports the company had already proposed an 11 per cent pay increase over three years while approaching the union proposals in “good faith”.
The vote on strike action follows a sweltering week for NSW, as temperatures soared across metropolitan Sydney and regional parts of the state.
Maximum temperatures were 10C higher than usual spring weather.