Bitter stalemate set to continue

Unionists and AGL Loy Yang are locking horns over an enterprise bargaining agreement negotiation that began in July last year.

Workers at the coal-fired 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, with a Protection Action Ballot Order application hearing before the Fair Work Commission on Friday.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says AGL is “deliberately provoking” a major industrial dispute by advancing a series of technical legal challenges against the application.

AGL claims any delays in the process have been of the union’s “own making”.

CFMEU mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke said industrial action could happen as late as the second week of June due to legal contests launched by the mining company.

Three meetings are scheduled between the parties with the Fair Work Commission. The union will apply for a Protection Action Ballot Order later this month and a good faith bargaining order on 17 May, while AGL Loy Yang has set a conciliation meeting on 9 May.

In December last year 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.

The company made a revised offer for workers maintaining the same five per cent pay rise per year, but the union had further concerns about cuts to superannuation contributions, annual and long-service leave, increased working hours and altered shift rosters.

The CFMEU says AGL has rejected nine proposed meeting dates, but the union has also turned down an opportunity for a three-day bargaining ‘summit’ with the company engaging an experienced facilitator.

Mr Dyke said the conciliation meeting was a “legal stunt” designed to neutralise the good faith bargaining order and rejected the summit on the basis of the facilitator operating as a paid consultant.

Mr Dyke said the Protection Action Ballot Order could be rejected due to a legal submission to remove parent company name ‘AGL Energy’ from the application.

AGL Energy employs managers and some contract workers, who operate outside of the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

Mr Dyke explained the CFMEU had amended the claim but could still be required to resubmit on the basis of the timing of the first application.

“It’s a legalistic time wasting exercise,” Mr Dyke said.

AGL Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets said when the CFMEU joined the Single Bargaining Unit, it tabled an unrealistic log of claims, which would add unnecessary costs and reduce productivity. Mr Rieniets said any Fair Work Commission hearing delays had been of the union’s own making.

He said their original Protection Action Ballot Order application included more than 300 pages of evidence.

“They then elected to withdraw that original application and re-submit the PABO,” he said.

“The CFMEU was then unavailable to attend the initial full bench hearing date set by the Commission which has only served to delay the process.”

“AGL Loy Yang has and will continue to bargain in good faith.”