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Australia: CFMEU wins Just Transition for Hazelwood power station workers

15 March, 2017The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has won a Just Transition deal for workers at the Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria.

Multinational energy company Engie announced in November 2016 that the coal fired power station and adjoining mine would close on 31 March 2017, at the cost of hundreds of jobs. The CFMEU entered into negotiations with power station operators in the Latrobe Valley and the Victoria government. The result is the Latrobe Valley Worker Transfer Partnership Scheme.

The deal includes a commitment to minimize job losses, retrain workers, and an early retirement scheme that will free up positions for those wishing to continue working in the industry.

Older workers will be offered early retirement at Loy Yang A power station and mine in the same area, creating jobs for young Hazelwood workers. It will keep families, jobs and money in the valley. At least 150 Hazelwood workers will be supported into employment.

CFMEU national president, and IndustriALL Global Union executive committee member Tony Maher described the scheme, which includes commitments by Latrobe Valley power station operators, unions and the Victorian government, as “a breakthrough in best practice”.

“This partnership sees workers, their families and the broader Latrobe Valley community supported through the Hazelwood power station closure,” he said.

“It sees a just transition for workers, their families and communities. Hundreds of directly affected workers and their families will breathe a little easier tonight, knowing there is a commitment to their families’ futures.” 

Hazelwood power station and mine is located in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, 150 km east of Melbourne. It is jointly owned by Engie (72%) and Mitsui (28%). French-based Engie – formerly known as GDF Suez – has had a global framework agreement with IndustriALL and the global unions PSI and BWI since 2012.

Hazelwood employs about 500 staff directly, and averages 300 alliance contractors with hundreds more employed during major maintenance periods.

Engie announced the closure of Hazelwood as a result of a policy of gradually ending its coal activities. In addition, the company has complained of low electricity prices and overcapacity in the electricity sector in Victoria.

CFMEU and its allies, working closing with the government of the state of Victoria, lobbied hard for a solution. On Friday 10 March, Victoria premier Daniel Andrews announced a funding package to facilitate the retraining and early retirement of workers, as well as agreement with the energy companies for the redeployment of workers to other sites.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“This is a great example that shows just transition is not just a paper exercise. With the political will to make it a reality, we can achieve practical results.

“Our affiliate the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division have done really good work in looking after the interests of their members and the community they live in.”