An attempt by Yallourn Power Station operator EnergyAustralia to circumvent unions and break negotiation deadlock appears futile, with the majority of union members pledging to reject a company offer.
A “strong” turnout of more than 50 eligible Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union workers late Wednesday voted unanimously to reject an enterprise agreement offered by the company.
Calls by The Express to remaining unions in the EA negotiation group revealed similar sentiments, with the Australian Services Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union both indicating opposition to the offer.
An Australian Workers Union spokesperson said his members were yet to form a position, while the Electrical Trades Union was unavailable for comment.
However, with CFMEU members representing more than 60 per cent of workers covered by the EA, their vote alone would far exceed the majority result required to reject the offer outright.
A two-week voting period for the company’s offer, which was initially due to begin last Thursday, has been pushed back until this Wednesday. In response to initial news union members were planning to reject the offer, EnergyAustralia group executive manager operations and construction Michael Hutchinson said the company was still focused on the upcoming voting period, and had not planned the company’s next move beyond the vote’s potential rejection.
In response, CFMEU lead negotiator Greg Hardy said it was “naive for any professional business not to consider alternative options”. “This agreement is dead in the water.. no one is recommending a ‘yes’ vote that I am aware of other than the company,” Mr Hardy said. He said the CFMEU’s strategy was to keep applying pressure through industrial action, which they planned to recommence shortly, until EnergyAustralia returned to the negotiation table.
Mr Hardy said while workers were resolute and prepared to make a stand, he did not believe the company would resort to “extreme measures” as seen during Yallourn’s last major dispute in 2000 when workers were locked out of the station for weeks.
In a subsequent comment made on Friday, Mr Hutchinson said the choice was still in workers’ hands with the upcoming vote.
“Their choice will be either signing up to a fair offer, or following the CFMEU into a long and protracted industrial dispute. It is a big responsibility for these individuals due to the very different consequences of their decision,” Mr Hutchinson said.