Unionists have filed for protected industrial action at AGL Loy Yang with the company fearing a threat to the state’s power supply.
Workers at the brown coal power station could vote to stop work between one and 24 hours and for bans on the operation of one or more power station units, following an application with the Fair Work Commission on Monday.
Yesterday the company opposed the ballot and a further hearing has been tentatively scheduled at the Fair Work Commission for 4 April.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has warned of “another Yallourn”, referencing a three-month lockout in 2013 over an industrial dispute with EnergyAustralia.
Mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke said the union’s intention was not to impact Victoria’s power supply, and had checked the supply and demand outlook.
The station’s four generating units have a total output of 2,210 megawatts, equal to about 30 per cent of Victoria’s electricity requirements.
“Our beef is with AGL, not the Victorian public,” Mr Dyke said.
“We don’t expect any impact on Victoria’s power supply and if there was, we’d lift our bans.”
In December the Loy Yang workforce rejected a proposed four-year enterprise agreement including a 21.5 per cent pay increase over four years.
Eighty per cent of workers voted against the proposal, with the union fearing it would put 40 jobs at risk.
AGL rejected this claim and said 15 job losses in power station operations would be through ‘natural attrition and early retirement options’ without compulsory redundancies.
That month, the company put a new, revised offer on the table for workers.
It maintained the same five per cent pay rise per year, but the union had concerns about cuts to superannuation contributions, annual leave, long-service leave, increased working hours and altered shift rosters.
“The dispute is not over the pay rise, both parties agree on a five per cent pay rise,” Mr Dyke said.
AGL Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets said he was extremely disappointed the CFMEU had signalled its intention to take industrial action.
Mr Rieniets said the company had negotiated in good faith, met with the CFMEU 25 times and gave genuine consideration to all their claims.
Recently, AGL proposed a three-day bargaining ‘summit’ with an experienced facilitator, including a former Fair Work Commissioner and retired Senior Deputy President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
Mr Rieniets said the offer was rejected on three separate occasions.
“We believed a facilitated summit would have assisted in helping to progress negotiations and we firmly believe it is possible to reach agreement without the need for industrial action,” he said.
Mr Dyke countered AGL had no intention of negotiating.
He said the CFMEU had two meetings with management in February, but six meetings had been declined this month.
Mr Dyke said the union objected to a paid consultant to operate as a facilitator, but were happy for a representative to attend the meeting as part of the AGL team to assist bargaining.
“We don’t want to portray him being an independent facilitator when he’s on your (AGL’s) payroll,” Mr Dyke said.
Loy Yang confirmed 578 employees are under the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.