Termination toils

More than 80 per cent of Loy Yang workers say they would look for a new job as owners AGL proceed to terminate their Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

A Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union-commissioned survey of 352 brown coal power station and mine workers was presented as evidence to a full bench at the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne early last week.

Given the union’s estimate of a 30 per cent reduction in wages, one of the anonymous surveyed workers said he would have to resign.

“I’m 53 so it would be very hard in this area of Latrobe Valley to find work until I reach 58,” the worker said.

The Express understands a successful application to terminate the existing agreement would mean all current terms and conditions within the agreement would no longer apply.

The employment agreement would revert to the relevant modern award – the Electrical Industry Award 2010.

Almost all surveyed members – 97 per cent – said they opposed the termination of the EBA and almost half said they were not in a strong financial position.

Close to 40 per cent of those surveyed were aged 51 or older and 42 per cent said they had been employed at Loy Yang for more than 20 years.

But in a statement, a spokesperson for AGL said there was no evidence or any suggestion that the company intended to reduce any employee pay by 30 per cent irrespective of the outcome of the termination proceedings.

The brown coal power station owners said they would not comment on the CFMEU survey because it was part of evidence in unresolved proceedings.

“It would not be appropriate to comment except to say that it appears employees were asked to assume there would be a 30 per cent reduction in their pay,” the AGL spokesperson said.

“There is no evidence or any suggestion that AGL intends to reduce any employees pay by 30 per cent irrespective of the outcome of the termination proceedings.”

The statement went on to say it understood workers’ concerns, “but their own union has twice recommended they reject proposals which include 20 per cent pay rises and no forced redundancies.”

CFMEU Victorian District Branch mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke said there was a strong public interest to not terminate the agreement against the background of a potential closure of Hazelwood.

“This would negatively impact on the Latrobe Valley community. When you lose high paying jobs, you also lose economic spending in the community,” Mr Dyke said.

He warned the only way employees could negotiate a new agreement and recover all conditions would be through industrial action.

“It would make any industrial dispute protracted, but if you’re only going to lose a third of your pay, you’ve got nothing to lose but to fight it. It would escalate any industrial dispute.”

The Fair Work Commission decision is the latest development in a long running dispute between Loy Yang power station owners and the union.

AGL Loy Yang offered workers a pay rise of 21.5 per cent over four years, but 80 per cent of workers voted against the proposal with the union fearing it would put 40 jobs at risk.

The termination proceedings continue.