Strike threat looms

THE looming threat of industrial action has resurfaced at Yallourn power station, where shift workers are preparing to walk off the job next Wednesday.

The workforce’s chief representative union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, served a 24-hour stop-work notice to station operator EnergyAustralia on Tuesday.

The stoppage will see two power station crews, of up to 11 workers each, refuse to operate the plant, in the workforce’s latest move to bolster a better enterprise bargaining agreement, as part of an eight-month long negotiation process.

The notice comes after the Fair Work commission granted a 30-day extension for workers to action the stoppage, after initial efforts to perform a stop work on 13 March were stymied when station management sent home more than 100 workers, preventing the walk out to occur.

However it is understood EnergyAustralia will be appealing FWA’s decision to extend the protected action period.

“We won’t know the impact this action will have until the company responds, but the ball’s in their court now, and what they want to do about not having those skilled operators on hand,” CFMEU lead negotiator Greg Hardy said.

“They might try and use some supervisors, or some other workers they may have up their sleeve.”

An EnergyAustralia spokesperson labelled the latest move as “heavy handed”, adding the workforce had a stable industrial relations agreement in place for the last decade, and the company was looking for an agreement which provided “similar stability”.

“It’s disappointing the CFMEU has threatened to stop work and walk out on what represents about one fifth of Victoria’s base load electricity supply when they are yet to respond to the latest offer for employees,” the spokesperson said.

EnergyAustralia has offered workers a five per cent pay rise every year until 2016, however Mr Hardy said the stalled negotiation’s sticking points revolved around allowances, staffing levels, maintenance, and EA eligibility.

“We started this process at almost the same time as Loy Yang B, where we have just signed off an a new EA, but after eight months of bargaining there’s nothing to show for it (at Yallourn); there is hardly anything we have agreed on to date,” he said.

Meanwhile, union efforts to circumvent a Supreme Court injunction, prohibiting power generation bans as a separate form of industrial action, which occurred at the station earlier this month, are underway, with union lawyers preparing a challenge in the Federal Court.

It is understood EnergyAustralia will be appealing the decision by FWA to retrospectively extend the protected action period.