Hazelwood deal to keep 150 in power industry

Engie’s announcement that it will close its Hazelwood power plant on 31 March came as a blow to the 450 affected workers, hundreds of contractors and the wider Latrobe Valley community. Around 50–60 ETU members were facing a difficult future once the plant closed but have now been thrown a lifeline by the Andrews State Government.

The Victorian Government has signed the historic Latrobe Valley Worker Transfer Scheme Partnership Agreement with Loy Yang A operator AGL that will allow 150 highly skilled Hazelwood workers to transfer to other power generators. The government has also reached an in-principle agreement with Engie to allow its Hazelwood workers to move to Loy Yang B, which they also operate.

How will the scheme work?

Under the $20 million scheme, early retirement packages will be offered to AGL workers to create vacancies for workers displaced by Hazelwood’s closure. In addition it is likely that 12 workers will be kept on at the Hazelwood coal mine for rehabilitation works, and a number of contractors will be kept on to decommission the power plant.

Premier Daniel Andrews, Minister for Industry and Employment Wade Noonan, Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing, Engie, AGL, Hazelwood workers and their unions, including the ETU’s Peter Mooney, signed the agreement in Morwell on 10 March.

The Worker Transfer Scheme is part of a $266 million package for the Latrobe Valley that also includes a $50 million Economic Growth Zone fund to support business growth and the establishment of the Latrobe Valley Authority (LVA).

The LVA’s worker transition service is also providing tailored support to workers and families to give them the skills, training, information and personal support they need to make a fresh start.

Why is Hazelwood closing?

The ageing and increasingly inefficient Hazelwood plant is the least economical brown coal generating plant in Victoria. Engie would need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure the plant’s viability and, most importantly, continued safe operation, which in the current and forecasted market conditions, is simply not viable.

Holding government to its promises

The ETU has long argued the need for a comprehensive transition plan for the Latrobe Valley that secures the futures of power industry workers and supports the economic development of the entire region.

‘We are disappointed by the decision to close Hazelwood and the lack of willingness to extend the closing date in order to give the workers more time and opportunity to transition to new jobs,’ said ETU Organiser Peter Mooney.

‘If the worker transfer scheme works as intended it will provide opportunities for people to stay in the power industry, and some workers may even join the industry. We will be watching closely to ensure that the outcomes promised are delivered.’

This article is from the Autumn 2017 issue of the ETU's members magazine. You can read the digital edition here.