Jobs may go as Yallourn scales back

The Federal Government must assist any Latrobe Valley workers left jobless by Yallourn Power Station’s move to reduce power generation, according to a prominent power industry union.

Yallourn Power Station and mine operator EnergyAustralia, formerly known as TRUenergy, announced yesterday it was scaling back generation due to the combined financial impact of the carbon price, decreased wholesale electricity prices, and falling electricity demand.

The scale back means Yallourn will only operate three of its four power generators for the foreseeable future, on a rotational basis in line with future supply and demand. Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet was paraphrased in the media yesterday stating Yallourn’s announcement was “further evidence the carbon price was already working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transform the energy sector”.

In response, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s Luke van der Meulen said Minister Combet had made a commitment to the Latrobe Valley it would assist power industry workers impacted by Federal Government policy.

“If we even see 10 jobs go as a result of this, we need this assistance as (those workers) lose work incrementally – if this is how it is going to play out for Latrobe Valley power workers in future, in little bits here and there, than we want assistance as it happens incrementally – and not just when big job losses are incurred,” Mr van der Meulen said.

“The impact of this on our members is they see a quarter of a power station potentially closing down.

“Government has given a commitment to not only look after generators but to look after community and workforce, and we would like to them remind them of that commitment.”

Mr van der Meulen said the mood among Yallourn workers in response to the announcement was “not good”. “They are all taking about it, discussing what impact this move is going to have on jobs, but who knows what the long term impact is going to be,” he said.

EnergyAustralia director of operations and construction Michael Hutchinson said it was too early to give an indication what impact the scale back would have on jobs.

“We need to be mindful of the economics at play here, and the workers are aware of that; we are looking at a more flexible operation where we watch our costs, looking at trying to sustain operation in to future to be more flexible and pursue cleaner coal technologies and more efficient processes,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“We are not actually looking at mothballing or closing down a generation unit … it’s a bit too early to tell how long Yallourn is likely to continue as a three-unit operation; but in line with lower demand, we will be mining less coal, and we need to look at how that affects our costs and operations.”

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council secretary John Parker said the financial impact of the Morwell River’s collapse into the Yallourn mine in June, which severely crippled generation operations for months, could not be ignored when assessing EnergyAustralia’s financial standing.

A spokesperson for Minister Combet said the Federal Government had a “range of existing measures for displaced workers” however was unable to provide further details before going to print.