Redeployment stoush

Unionists have called suggestions they are blocking Hazelwood workers transitioning into positions at neighbouring power station Loy Yang a “blatant lie”.

Loy Yang operator AGL has proposed to engage 50 workers from the soon-to-be retired Hazelwood power station and mine “if appropriate arrangements can be resolved” in a statement to the Fair Work Commission.

The operator claimed the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union was blocking a ‘lateral entry’ program of Hazelwood workers into Loy Yang and said it would provide what it sees as “issues and impediments” under the current enterprise bargaining agreement.

AGL is seeking to terminate the current Loy Yang EBA after workers voted the agreement down in a secret ballot in September.

It was the second agreement to be rejected in a long-running dispute between the two parties.

The union’s Victorian district mining and energy division secretary, Geoff Dyke, said the company was attempting to further discredit an EBA it wanted to terminate.

“The CFMEU is keen and willing to promote a redeployment scheme for Hazelwood workers, and would support a negotiation with AGL to get a program across the line – but we have not been asked,” Mr Dyke said.

“AGL’s claims that the CFMEU is blocking ‘lateral entry’ of Hazelwood workers into Loy Yang is a blatant lie.”

The suggestions follow the Latrobe Valley-based union outlining a pooled redundancy scheme in the lead-up to Hazelwood announcing it would stop operations in March next year.

As part of its campaign for a ‘just transition’, the CFMEU concept encourages older workers at newer power stations to retire early to make way for younger employees who could redeploy into their positions.

Last week The Express revealed the State Government had appointed former MP Simon Crean to act as a facilitator between unions and employers of the Latrobe Valley’s four power station generators and mines.

The former Federal Regional Development Minister met with unions and the power industry to investigate the early transfer scheme hoping to mitigate the 750 job losses at Hazelwood.

During a visit to the Latrobe Valley on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews told The Express the government’s focus was on other things, while looking at the concept closely.

“Can we get a partnership among all the power companies to have potentially some of those workers who are about to lose their jobs at Hazelwood continue their working life at one of the other power stations? We’re looking at it closely,” Mr Andrews said.

“The other thing of course is to work with the company so when it comes to the decommissioning, the demolition and the rehabilitation of the power station and mine as many jobs can be ongoing as possible.”

It remains unclear if the Loy Yang Enterprise Agreement 2012 before the Fair Work Commission impedes the transitioning of workers.

However, Mr Dyke said he could not find any restrictions.

He said the agreement promoted a system of career progression where vacancies were filled from a pool of workers trained in lower classifications, but redeployment of Hazelwood workers would not be covered under the ‘vacancies’ provisions.

AGL have indicated they will provide their proposal to the Fair Work Commission on Friday and the subsequent conference on Monday, 12 December.

The Express was unable to receive further comment from AGL before the time of print.