Union fears worker transfer impact

Cuts to staffing levels among operations workers at Loy Yang A power station could mean less jobs are available for former Hazelwood employees under a landmark worker transfer scheme, the mining and energy union has warned.

The announcement came on a historic day for the region when the last of Hazelwood’s eight turbines powered down for good and Loy Yang B owner ENGIE announced it was joining the worker transfer scheme.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke said no-one had been made redundant at Loy Yang, but the move was likely to lead to less vacancies at the plant.

“On the same day Hazelwood is closing down AGL is cutting their minimum staffing levels and potentially reducing positions,” Mr Dyke said.

“If you run with less minimum staff, you’ll need less people to run it.”

He said day shift would be cut from 17 to 14 operations workers while night shift would be cut from 16 to 13.

The development is the latest round in a bitter dispute between the CFMEU and AGL, which in January successfully applied to the Fair Work Commission to have the plant’s enterprise bargaining agreement terminated.

It was reported at the time that terminating the deal would result in workers having their earnings slashed by up to 30 per cent, a figure which the union disputed – putting it at up to 65 per cent.

However, AGL gave an undertaking to the commission to maintain pay and conditions at the site at current levels for three years while negotiations continued.

Mr Dyke said the union’s motivation throughout the dispute had been to protect jobs.

“We were never in dispute about pay, it was AGL wanting to cut jobs that was the core of our opposition to reaching an agreement,” he said.

An AGL spokesperson yesterday told The Express “crew sizes will be maintained at safe levels”.

“We have made no decisions on redundancies,” the spokesperson said.

“AGL has consistently said it intends to take at least 50 Hazelwood workers and looks forward to working through the process with the Victorian Government.”

Industry and Employment Minister Wade Noonan responded to concerns about the impact on the scheme by saying “all parties committed in good faith to implement the worker transfer scheme, and this important work is continuing”.

The Express understands the government has received assurances from the company that any restructuring among operations staff will not impact the number of positions created under the scheme.

Meanwhile, an ENGIE in Australia spokesperson said the company was pleased to announce its other Latrobe Valley power station Loy Yang B was joining the worker transfer scheme.

“Since making the extremely difficult decision to close the Hazelwood power generation business, ENGIE in Australia has been working closely with the State Government and trade unions to identify employment opportunities for Hazelwood employees who want to remain in the energy industry in the Latrobe Valley,” the spokesperson said.

“Further details and timings will be finalised in the coming weeks.”