Agreement on a knife’s edge

Unionists fear an application by AGL Loy Yang to terminate its current enterprise agreement will have severe repurcussions on employee entitlements at the brown coal power station.

AGL Loy Yang lodged the application to the Fair Work Commission last week following 12 months of EA negotiations with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, on the basis the union had “refused to negotiate more modern, competitive and rational terms and conditions in an industry undergoing significant change”.

“The key issue is that the unions are seeking to impose further costs and inefficiencies on our operation that would add millions of dollars a year to our operating costs,” an AGL spokesperson said.

“Not only would that put at risk the competiveness of the power station, but risk higher prices to consumers.”

CFMEU Victorian district mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke branded AGL’s move as “premature”.

He told The Express AGL had deliberately not tried to reach an agreement by bringing new claims to the table as recently as last week.

“It’s premature and inappropriate for the reason that conciliation is still ongoing, and I point out that AGL was the applicant that applied for conciliation,” Mr Dyke said.

“Not giving the process they applied for a chance is immature and inappropriate.”

The current EA was due for replacement from December 31, 2015, but remains in place until either a new deal is struck or the FWC dissolves it.

AGL Loy Yang will meet with the commission this morning and again on Thursday to discuss its application, but the CFMEU believes it is against public interest to cease the agreement.

Mr Dyke said termination of the agreement when AGL “refused” to negotiate undermined the whole conciliation process.

He said if AGL was successful in its application workers’ salaries and long-service leave could drop by a third, superannuation would decrease 2.5 per cent and sick leave would “probably drop”.

An AGL spokesperson said preference was for the union to meet constructively with them to negotiate a new agreement.