By ROBBIE MASON
The relationship between the Australian Services Union (ASU) and upper management at Sydney Water has further deteriorated with claims that the former Coalition government wanted to privatise the publicly-owned corporation resurfacing and attacks becoming personal. The union is now calling on Water Minister Rose Jackson to sack managing director Roch Cheroux.
According to correspondence obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald, ASU NSW and ACT branch secretary Angus McFarland wrote to the Water Minister last week, claiming that Cheroux was a political appointment. In a scathing two page letter, McFarland asserts that Cheroux was part of an underhand Coalition scheme to privatise Sydney Water.
In the build-up the last state election, media reports revealed that the Coalition government had spent $400,000 paying consultancy firms to investigate the benefits and drawbacks of privatising the utility. In response, Labor accused the Coalition of wanting to privatise Sydney Water.
In the letter to Minister Jackson, McFarland also alleges that Cheroux has assumed “hyper-aggressive, American-style union-busting tactics”, including adding certain unions to a list of banned websites alongside pornography and gambling sites.
McFarland writes that the union have “never encountered an executive team so openly hostile to workers and so unapologetically destructive to the social purpose of Sydney Water” as the current management team.
Water Minister Rose Jackson said she is meeting with representatives from the ASU “in the next week or two to discuss their concerns directly” including the wage offer currently on the table, which Sydney Water staff will vote on next week. The offer is for an 11 percent wage increase over three years.
The news follows the breakdown of wage negotiations in July this year amid worsening working conditions and accusations that the state-owned corporation has implemented outdated, secretive WorkChoices style contracts. At the end of July, Sydney Water workers lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission.
According to the ASU, morale among workers at Sydney Water is at an all-time low.
Minister Jackson told City Hub, “employees have expressed frustration with the progress of their Enterprise Agreement negotiations and it is disappointing to hear that workers don’t feel heard or appreciated.”
“I expect Sydney Water to listen and act on the concerns raised by employees.”