Caught off-guard

WHEN security guards at Yallourn power station approached an unfamiliar visitor taking site photos early this month, they were performing a routine part of their job.

Despite extensive training and experience handling major emergency situations and security breaches, they were completely unprepared for what came next.

“We questioned them and found they were there to take over our security contract,” former ISS security employee John Ferris said.

Mr Ferris, who had just signed off on a hard-fought three-year enterprise bargaining agreement, which he thought had secured his future at the company, was rather confused by the development.

Sure enough, Mr Ferris and his 10 colleagues’ positions had been advertised on the website of rival emergency security management company, Dynamiq, since mid-January, terms for which commenced today.

The EA, which was under negotiation for the past 12 months and signed off by 10 of the ISS employees, and ratified by Fair Work Australia, was redundant.

“I think I was in complete shock at first; then it was this sickening feeling that followed, because it was done so discretely behind our backs – it’s pretty outrageous,” former ISS security employee Tia van der Meulen said before handing in her uniform on Tuesday.

Despite a number of the ISS workers confident their extensive prior knowledge would favour their subsequent applications through Dynamiq, none were successful.

“I’ve been through contract changes before, so I didn’t think it was a too much of a biggy, so this has completely gutted me – I just got a $220,000 loan on my home (in Walhalla) because I expected I would have three more years of employment here,” Mr Ferris said.

“A lot of us had gone out and got loans and are in the same boat; we are going to have to cancel a lot of things.”

While maintenance, construction, and security contracts are lost and won across Latrobe Valley’s power industry every year, not a single power industry source which The Express spoke to could recall a changeover in which no existing staff had been re-hired.

“I’ve worked on a lot of jobs before, and I’ve never seen a workforce treated so terribly in my life as what’s happened now; there are some very competent workers in this lot who have done nothing wrong, and to be dismissed in this way is atrocious,” former ISS security employee Neville Lindsay said.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s Luke van der Meulen, also Tia’s father, said the move signalled a “concerning” new dawn in power industry employment dynamics.

“This is a very significant thing; if this is way the Valley’s power industry is going to go in future, where companies go off and do agreements with themselves, undercutting conditions in previous agreements,” Mr van der Meulen said.

Dynamiq did not responded to calls before going to print, however ISS workers said they understood the incoming employees salaries had undercut their ill-fated EA by about $10,000 to $15,000.

An EnergyAustralia spokesperson said Dynamiq was awarded the contract after a robust tender process, in anticipation of ISS’s three and half year contract coming to an end.

“Following a rigorous process, Dynamiq were evaluated as best meeting the required criteria and were selected to undertake security services at Yallourn,” the spokesperson said.

“We respect the right of Dynamiq, as with any contractor, to select their personnel based on their selection processes.

“We evaluated a range of measures, including demonstrated experience, approach to health and safety management, work-place relations, innovation and continuous improvement.”

An ISS spokesperson said the company was surprised by the loss of contract as EnergyAustralia had been actively negotiating a new EA with the CFMEU and employees on the site over the past 12 months.