Professionals Australia has taken an active role in achieving protections for staff, in the process of Hunter Water selling its subsidiary Hunter Water Australia in December.
Professionals Australia’s NSW director Gordon Brock explained that, “We were keen to ensure that there were suitable employee protections against loss of jobs and opportunities for redeployment through the sale. We were also keen for the sale to proceed, and proceed in a way that it wouldn’t devalue the organisation.
LISTEN to Gordon Brock speaking to ABC Radio about the sales protections.
“There was a strong feeling among employees that they didn’t want to see the organisation broken up. And they certainly don’t want to see the organisation leave the local area (Newcastle).
“What we have been able to achieve are commitments that will now be included in the sale process. Firstly, the organisation can only be sold as a single entity, or with the only exception being the separate sale of the laboratory.
“Perhaps the key one for members – and for Newcastle – is that any buyer of Hunter Water Australia must offer all employees the opportunity to maintain their location of employment (Newcastle) until at least 30 June 2016.
“Keeping Hunter Water Australia in Newcastle is vital for employees who have built their lives in the city, but also for providing a diverse range of engineering and science jobs in the region,”said Mr Brock.
The sale of Hunter Water Australia has been questioned by many in the industry, who cite Hunter Water Australia as successful business with highly-regarded expertise in water treatment.
Hunter Water Australia started in 1998 with 40 people and grew in size, to now have over 130 employees.
Ron Robson, former chairman of Hunter Water said that he felt that “the value of this organisation is the people – the quality and expertise of these people. I would hope that any buyer and the government, would recognise that”.
It is useful to outline the arrangements negotiated for members:
- Hunter Water Australia will be sold as a single entity, with the only exception being the separate sale of the laboratory;
- Requirement that the organisation remain located in Newcastle until at least 1 July 2016;
- Access to a redeployment pool for those employees not offered employment with new owner, either at time of sale or within first six months following sale;
- Redeployment pool to be capped at 30 employees at any time (not in total);
- Hunter Water Australia has agreed to enter into good faith discussions with unions if number of employees made forcibly redundant in the pool approaches or exceeds 30 at any stage;
- Employees will have access to redeployment pool for six months. During that time employees’ salary will be maintained. If not successfully redeployed during six month period, the employee will be offered employment in a position within their area of expertise. In circumstances where the position is a lower paid position, the employee’s salary will be maintained for a further six month period.
- All conditions of employment and service accrual will transfer to the new owner.
- At this stage redundancies will be paid to employees accepting redundancy and/or redeployment to Hunter Water and there will be no recognition of service for those moving to Hunter Water. However please note that we are seeking the ability for those moving into redeployment with Hunter Water to have a choice between accepting a redundancy payment or having their service recognised.
- Retention payments will be paid to individuals in accordance with advice received.
Discussions continue with Hunter Water Australia around the detail of the shape and form of the redeployment pool that will be made available to HWA employees in accordance with the negotiated package of employee protections.
The discussions will focus on how people enter the pool, where they will be located, the types of work they will be performing, the nature of the retraining and job search support they will be provided access to whilst they are in the pool and the transitional arrangements to apply upon the conclusion of the six month period and/or successful redeployment.
Professionals Australia will be working closely with the company and will be seeking an update on the sale generally to ensure that members are well-informed of expected timeframes and other arrangements.
Media on this issue
Gordon Brock on ABC Radio (16 October), talking about achieving sales protections for Hunter Water Australia engineers and scientists.
Gordon Brock and Ron Robson (23 October) speaking on ABC Radio about the Hunter Water Australia sale.