Crunch time as vote looms

An ultimatum hangs over power station and mine employees at AGL Loy Yang as they consider a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement by the Fair Work Commission.

If workers vote down the agreement in a secret ballot on Thursday, the Latrobe Valley brown coal company will proceed with its case to terminate the EBA set to be heard next month.

“If people want certainty they need to vote the agreement up,” AGL Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets said.

“I’m hopeful we don’t have to go down that path, the unions are seeking to take protected action under the act, however we can reach an agreement and that is our preferred way through.”

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke will be asking members to again reject the five per cent annual pay rise over the next four years.

A mass meeting to discuss the EBA with its union members will be held at Kernot Hall, Morwell from 7pm tonight.

Mr Dyke said the agreement had not been negotiated, workers had been denied the right to take industrial action and the pay rise had been delayed by six months.

“This is an unbalanced outcome and employers are being asked to vote under coercion, facing a termination of the current EBA,” Mr Dyke said.

“If that were to occur, it would fall back to a modern award, potentially cutting two thirds of their current pay.”

The FWC said no changes would be made to superannuation and long service leave entitlements, but Mr Dyke has found the devil in the detail of the document, estimating 36 job losses.

He said this included a restructure of engineering and maintenance teams, roster alterations such as the one-by-seven shift to nine day fortnight shift with no fixed staffing.

“We’re not looking at people to be made redundant, but they will be making job positions redundant,” he said.

Mr Rieniets said there was misleading information about job losses and rumours that workers would be forced to relocate to Melbourne.

He said AGL had been briefing staff on the agreement to make an informed decision based on facts.

“It’s a good offer, five per cent increase, twice (the Consumer Price Index), and certainty on top of already excellent wages and conditions,” Mr Rieniets said.

The ballot is the latest development in a long-running dispute between Loy Yang A Power Station and the CFMEU, which applied for protected industrial action.

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.