Unions are expected to again reject a stripped-back enterprise bargaining agreement proposal tabled by AGL Loy Yang last week, pushing the company and its workers further towards an industrial dispute.
AGL’s dramatically revised new agreement comes after employees overwhelmingly rejected a proposal put to them last month, fearing a 21.5 per cent pay increase over four years would be offset by the initial loss of about 40 jobs.
The company, which wants to secure its future in the wake of this month’s climate change conference in Paris, says it has gone back to basics and re-started traditional negotiations with a new productivity-driven proposal aimed at cutting unnecessary costs and improving efficiency.
But the latest offer has been described as “much, much worse” by Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union secretary Geoff Dyke.
“If you take an agreement that 80 per cent of the workers voted no and put a much, much worse agreement on the table, you’ve just lost the 20 per cent that voted yes. We believe AGL is certainly trying to deliberately provoke a dispute (with the new proposal),” Mr Dyke said.
He acknowledged while the offer of a five per cent pay rise per year, maintained in the new proposal, was “very generous”, it would come at the expense of workers’ conditions through a raft of changes.
The union’s new key concerns are proposals to cut superannuation contributions and annual leave, increase working hours and alter shift rosters. Mr Dyke fears the changes will result in job losses and an unsafe work environment.
However AGL Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets rejected claims workers’ safety would be compromised and said the new proposal would deliver more productivity and efficiency, aimed at securing the company’s viability to ensure it remained open until 2048.
Mr Rieniets said the company currently forked out $20 million per year in overtime, some of which was “unnecessary”, and the new proposal would allow AGL to make savings in this area.
“We obviously need to be more efficient in this industry to ensure we are protecting jobs in the longer term,” Mr Rieniets said.
“We are genuinely trying to get an agreement, we believe our previous offer was a very fair and reasonable offer. Unfortunately that was rejected… therefore we need to adopt a more traditional approach to bargaining.
“We’re here to ensure Loy Yang runs the distance before 2048 (its proposed closure date) and in order to do that we need to be efficient.”
Negotiations between the company and unions will continue next month.