Redeployment plan dissolves

A union proposal to redeploy workers potentially being cut from Energy Brix has collapsed, according to sources.

Earlier this month Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union mining and energy division Victorian president Luke van der Meulen said the union sought agreement with the Latrobe Valley’s other power generators to absorb Energy Brix workers who faced unemployment if the plant closed.

However, generators have declined to commit to any such agreement and this week Energy Brix insiders and Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester agreed the proposal was a “shot in the dark”.

The CFMEU proposal was based on the idea Energy Brix workers could replace older employees taking voluntary departure packages at other power stations.

Insiders from other power stations have said those VDPs were aimed at tightening their own workforce numbers and it was understood there were no plans to absorb workers from Energy Brix.

One Energy Brix worker told The Express “now I feel this was just talk as the unions were telling us that this is not likely to happen”.

The worker also said the union had vowed to work with the Federal Government to ensure alternative baseload power stations would be constructed in the area to provide “jobs for the long term” but that “so far there is nothing in sight”.

Mr Chester said he believed the CFMEU had either been “lied to” by the government or had “failed in their duty to represent the interests of local workers”.

“If it was a Coalition Government proposal to shut down hundreds of blue-collar jobs in the Valley, the union movement would be marching in the streets and their silence on this issue has been baffling,” he said.

“If they have been misled by ministers with false assurances then I have sympathy for the local union organisers because I know them to be people who are passionate about the future the Latrobe Valley and it saddens me if they have been lied to,” Mr Chester said.

Another Energy Brix employee said it was a “common” feeling among workers the union had “forgotten who they represent” in not opposing the carbon tax and the ‘contracts for closure’ scheme.

“They have supported the government and the environmental groups, but there are enough environmental lobby groups to do that job…what about the workers?” the worker said.

“They promised to make our jobs safe but they are not safe.”

It is understood Energy Brix plans to cut its workforce “as soon as possible” and VDPs have already been offered. The cuts are expected to, initially, affect operators and maintenance contractors.

At the start of the month managing director of Mecrus, contracted to manufacture briquettes at Energy Brix, Barry Richards also told The Express the business, with 60 direct employees and numerous contractors, could also soon become “collateral damage” of the carbon tax.

His comments followed a statement from Industrial Energy, a subsidiary of HRL (Energy Brix’s owner), which said the future of its brown coal briquette manufacturing and supply business was under review as a direct result of the carbon tax.

HRL and Mr van der Meulen were unavailable for comment.