Offer rejected

Workers at Loy Yang Power Station and mine have overwhelmingly rejected owner AGL’s proposed four-year Enterprise Agreement, signalling the possibility of a drawn out industrial dispute over the peak summer period.

AGL says the rejection of its offer, which included a wage increase of 21.5 per cent over four years, meant uncertainty for workers, operations and customers.

The company is expected to continue negotiations with union officials this week.

It had hoped to avoid a long bargaining process by putting the proposal to employees prior to reaching an agreement with unions.

However 80 per cent of those workers voted against it.

Unions fear the proposal will result in the loss of about 40 jobs across AGL’s operations at Loy Yang.

AGL says only 15 jobs will go through natural attrition.

AGL Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets told The Express on Friday the vote result was disappointing and left the company with several options including a review or withdrawal of the offer.

“Over the next week or so we’ll sit down and take stock, review where we’re at and take it from there,” Mr Rieniets said.

“We believe it’s a very fair and reasonable offer in these economic times.”

With the expiry of the current agreement looming on 31 December, unions can now apply for a protected action ballot, which could result in industrial action at Loy Yang.

However the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which represents about two-thirds of the 580-strong workforce at Loy Yang, last week reassured any possible action it took would not put the state’s power supply at risk.

“Any action we take will have the public interest at the centre of what we’ll do… it’s not our intention to jeopardise the public’s power supply,” CFMEU secretary Geoff Dyke said.

Mr Dyke said unions were still concerned about the need to shed jobs at AGL and claimed it was being done to fund the proposed pay increase.

“They want us to pay for that (five per cent pay rise) with job losses,” he said.

“Our first concern is: that’s unsustainable. Our second concern is that we’ve still got an industry in decline, the old stations are likely to close down in the next few years so we want to maintain jobs in the power stations that are still going to be there for 30 years.”

The CFMEU is part of a single bargaining unit (SBU) negotiating the proposal alongside Australian Services Union, Electrical Trades Union and Professionals Australia.

It is understood unions are unhappy about AGL’s decision to ask for employees to vote before a final deal had been reached with the SBU. Mr Dyke said AGL had not considered unions’ claims during negotiations between the company and the SBU over the past six months.

“Obviously the workforce aren’t prepared to wear AGL’s enterprise bargaining agreement,” he said.

“AGL hasn’t shown any intention to negotiate… They haven’t engaged us in any meaningful discussions.”

It’s a suggestion rejected by Mr Rieniets, who said some of the unions’ claims were “unrealistic”.

Mr Rieniets said the company had wanted to put a new agreement in place before 31 December and decided to give employees the chance to have their say on the proposal directly.

“This is a new way of negotiating with the workforce, we’ve been open and honest, we could have wasted weeks having ambit claims but didn’t,” he said.