Engie says workers the first to know

Owners of Hazelwood power station and mine have conceded the future of the ageing plant is “under review”, but stressed no decision about its future had been made.

Last month The Age reported Engie could make a decision about its future on 19 or 20 October, creating widespread fear in the community about imminent job losses.

“We all know and it’s common knowledge Hazelwood’s future is under review,” Engie spokesman Trevor Rowe said when asked if the company was doing well given the continued denial of no closure plans.

“The continued speculation is not helpful to anyone, the workers, for the Latrobe Valley community… not for anyone.”

Mr Rowe confirmed no formal communication had been sent to workers following the media speculation, but they had been informally told “if there’s a decision and when there’s a decision you (workers) would be the first to know”.

“If we put a formal communication out every time there’s media speculation, we’d be doing it on a regular basis,” he said.

The state and federal governments responded to the media speculation, with Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Industry and Employment Minister Wade Noonan visiting Morwell to discuss transition and future job opportunities two days after The Age article was published.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the uncertainty was undermining community and business confidence and it was time for the Engie Group to make its intentions known so the region could plan for the future.

“I recognise Engie has not made a decision about Hazelwood’s future, but the recent media speculation has highlighted the need for the company to be more transparent,” Mr Chester said.

“Engie must ensure its workers are given the opportunity to receive their full entitlements, re-skill and transition to other jobs, if a decision is made to close Hazelwood.”

Voices of the Valley’s Wendy Farmer said the community should not put their heads in the sand, noting the possibility of more news from the multi-national energy company’s headquarters in France.

Mrs Farmer said she believed a decision about Hazelwood’s future had been made.

“Engie know what is happening and they have a responsibility to their workers in the power station and mine to let them know as soon as the decision has been made,” she said.

CFMEU Victorian district mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke said he believed the company had not been up-front with its workforce or the community, citing the sudden announcement to close the HRL briquette factory.

Mr Dyke said a month before the Morwell operation closed, the company had given assurances they were not closing.

“Unfortunately with some people you don’t want to hear bad news and the bad news coming, but people hang onto that hope,” he said.

“Workers are being led into a false sense of security.”

In a response to a series of questions about the government’s communication with Engie, Ms D’Ambrosio said the government would stand by workers and their families to ensure they got the support they needed in the event of a closure.