Stamping out sickies at Loy Yang

Workers at Loy Yang have been ordered to stop taking “unprotected action” in the form of sickies and refusing to work overtime.

Energy giant AGL presented evidence at the Fair Work Commission last week that nine of the last 11 shifts failed to achieve minimum staffing levels to operate the power station’s four units.

AGL submitted about a third of workers took sick leave on the 16, 17 and 18 January, with excuses ranging from tending to a “sick cow” or not returning their phone calls.

Commissioner Julius Roe at first rejected AGL’s application to stop the “alleged industrial action”, acknowledging there was good reason to be suspicious the company’s difficulties were in response to the recent decision to terminate the enterprise bargaining agreement.

“However, I indicated that the decision had been a fine balance and that should the problem continue or should further evidence emerge the decision might be quite different,” Mr Roe said.

He said he was satisfied the new evidence, in conjunction with earlier evidence, that industrial action was occurring. Earlier this month the FWC ruled in favour of AGL to terminate the EBA with unions warning of wage cuts in the order of 65 per cent and scrapped work conditions, and the company moving to assure continued market competitive rates.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke said he rejected the claim the union had organised the “unprotected action”.

“The obvious conclusion is employees are upset and not coming to work because they don’t feel like coming to work,” Mr Dyke said in reference to the EBA termination case.

“The Commission assumes we’re organising this and implored for us to defend, but how do we prove we’re doing nothing?”

In a statement AGL said it was forced to make an application to the FWC seeking orders in response to operations staff not making themselves available for work.

The brown coal power station operator said it was unable to run the plant at full capacity during the past six days.

Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets said he was pleased the matter had now been resolved as hot weather continues and demand on the system increases with industry resuming after the holiday break.

“We continue to focus on negotiating a new enterprise agreement, which will give certainty to AGL Loy Yang, our employees and the community and enable AGL to operate under a more modern agreement facilitating greater flexibility and efficiencies,” Mr Rieniets said.

AGL and unions will meet again today for a stay-order hearing as the CFMEU proceeds to appeal the EBA termination case.