Hazelwood employees are shrugging off media speculation

Hazelwood employees are shrugging off media speculation the power station and mine may close as early as April 2017.

The Express understands the mood at the plant has been one of business-as-usual, until workers are given official word of any decision.

It’s understood employees know no more than what had been suggested in Fairfax Media reports over the weekend – that Hazelwood owner Engie was planning to discuss station closure options at its October board meeting.

Fairfax Media suggested a closure could occur as early as April next year.

Engie maintains no decision has been made.

The rumours are being somewhat felt, however, with some workers unsure about their future and the prospect of moving their families elsewhere for work, The Express understands.

CFMEU mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke said there had been speculation surrounding Hazelwood’s closure for 20 years.

Mr Dyke said he knew about eight station workers that moved from Hazelwood to Loy Yang B 23 years ago fearing the station would close then.

“Workers are uncertain and have heard rumours and innuendo before as well, it can make them a bit blas ,” he said.

The State Government announced during a visit to Morwell on Monday it would not wait for official announcements.

Industry and Employment Minister Wade Noonan said the Valley could expect an increase in job opportunities through the State Government’s $10 million economic facilitation fund, but did not announce any specific details.

Instead, Mr Noonan called on the Federal Government to match the state’s $10 million contribution to support a transition away from brown coal.

Mr Noonan said regions such as Geelong had experienced “unparalleled” jobs growth on the back of the closure of large employers through government co-investment, and “there’s no reason we can’t see the same results in this region”.

“Imagine if that (our $10 million investment) was in fact backed by the Federal Government with a matching investment; the sort of opportunities that would bring to the region would be doubled in my view,” he said.

Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who joined Mr Noonan on his visit, said she had contacted Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, who had indicated the Federal Government was prepared to collaborate with its state counterpart.

Ms D’Ambrosio said comments from Member for Gippsland Darren Chester supporting Commonwealth investment were also promising.

In a statement to The Express yesterday, Mr Chester said Hazelwood closure would bring “significant economic challenges”.

“If Hazelwood is to close, the first priority is to make sure that workers receive their full entitlements and are given the opportunity to re-train and develop skills that can be used in the mine rehabilitation, or other occupations in our region,” Mr Chester said.

Mr Chester said he was confident in the case of a Hazelwood closure, all tiers of government would work together to provide support for workers, their families and the regional economy.

Minister Frydenberg’s office did not respond to questions from The Express at the time of print; however no new federal funding commitments have been made.