Master Electricians Australia  (MEA) has warned that the ‘outlandish’ wage claim by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) would cripple the contracting industry and lead to widespread job losses.

MEA Manager of Workplace Relations Jason O'Dwyer explains that the 18 per cent pay rise flagged by the unions would add close to $27,000 to the cost of employing an electrical worker on a construction project over the three years of the proposed deal. This would translate to more than $400,000 in additional wage costs for a small business with just 15 employees.

Describing ETU’s wage claim as irresponsible, Mr O'Dwyer said it could only be viewed as a political ploy designed to spark a fight with the recently elected Federal Government. He also cautioned that businesses will be forced to lay off personnel in order to make ends meet.

Observing how the unions clearly want to get tough in their dealings with the Federal Government and cause as much political pain as possible, he commented that the ETU should not use business owners and their staff as pawns in that fight.

Mr O'Dwyer said the wage claim would take the hourly rate for an A-grade worker in the construction sector from $45.66 per hour, excluding superannuation to $54.38 by the end of the proposed agreement.

Based on the existing standard 36-hour week with 10 hours of overtime, the annual salary would rise from $140,868 to $167,776 – an increase of $26,908.

According to Mr O'Dwyer, these claims are made on the basis that the Union will again use its illegal pattern bargaining tactics and pick off those employers who can least afford industrial action and end up costing tax payer money when it comes to major infrastructure projects.

Master Electricians called upon the ETU to abandon this irresponsible attack on workers' job security, and bargain with a sensible, sustainable claim that includes a realistic wage increase and avenues for genuine productivity gains.