Power supply at risk as AGL workers reject pay offer

by John Maguire27 Sep 2016
Hundreds of employees at an AGL power station in Victoria have opted to reject a significant pay rise of 20 percent over four years, potentially creating disruptions to power supply.

Strikes and lockouts are now a distinct possibility at the Loy Yang power station in Victoria, which is owned by AGL, one of Australia’s biggest energy companies. AGL will now press ahead with a ‘last resort’ attempt to terminate an enterprise agreement that affects more than 500 employees.

The rejection of the pay rise marks the latest instalment in a long-running dispute that saw AGL make its latest offer in late August, only for it to be rejected by secret ballot. The ballot saw 70 percent of employees decide against the proposal.

Should AGL succeed in terminating the enterprise agreement, hundreds of workers face cuts in pay and conditions, due to reverting to lower minimum rates of the power industry award. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has subsequently indicated it will apply to the Fair Work Commission to undertake a ballot of its workers to authorise industrial action.

The rejection of AGL’s offer was met with disappointment by Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets, who pointed out that the offer had been described by the Fair Work Commission as an “impartial, middle-ground solution that retained AGL Loy Yang’s generous pay and conditions”.

Rieniets added, “This outcome further entrenches outdated union ideology and, in this case, goes against common sense.”

Rienets said it was “hard to fathom” why the offer was so overwhelmingly rejected, as it included pay rises, generous superannuation and a guarantee of no forced redundancies.

He also pointed out that the latest development could bring about disruption, saying, “All this vote achieves is uncertainty and a high risk of industrial disputation that could put Victorian energy supplies at risk.”

For its part, the CFMEU has stated that it hopes the rejection will start a dialogue with AGL. Geoff Dyke, CFMEU mining and energy division secretary, said, “There are a half-dozen issues that need to be resolved, but AGL put the ballot out to workers anyway.
“Outside of the conciliated process in the Fair Work Commission, AGL has refused to meet with us since February.”

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