Yallourn arbitration favours company

Issue 

BY CHRIS SLEE

MELBOURNE — The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has ruled that Yallourn Energy's draft enterprise agreement, known as EB2000, should be adopted as the award governing workers' pay and conditions, despite its rejection in a secret ballot of the company's employees last year.

The decision means that Yallourn Energy can legally impose compulsory redundancies, bring in contractors without union agreement and change workers' rosters without their consent.

The decision gives workers a pay rise of 16% over three years, with the possibility of bonuses based on "personal performance". It also supposedly provides for a move to a 36-hour week, down from the current 37.5 hours.

But Luke van der Meulen, the president of the Victorian Mining and Energy district of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, told Green Left Weekly that the shorter week would be "illusory" because of the company's ability to impose compulsory overtime.

"If the company has complete control over conditions, workers will eventually be working 60 or 70 hours", he said.

The union argued in the commission that EB2000 was contrary to the public interest, because it would pave the way for further job losses that would add to unemployment in the Latrobe Valley, already the highest in Australia. The commission ignored these arguments.

Van der Meulen said it was "laughable to consider the arbitration commission ... an independent umpire that can be relied on to deliver fair outcomes for workers. The John Howard/Peter Reith industrial laws force the commission to find in favour of employers in every case."

Van der Meulen also criticised the Victorian Labor government.

"Premier Bracks ignored union calls for assistance and sat on his hands while Yallourn Energy dragged its workers through the industrial courts ... When will the state government admit responsibility for privatisation and the associated job losses and mount a genuine job creation program instead of glitzy publicity campaigns?"

Van der Meulen said the CFMEU refused to accept the decision of a "biased umpire". Union members will meet on September 12 to decide their response to the decision.

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