‘Don’t let us become a stranded asset’
MEU members from power stations around Australia travelled to Canberra last week to make their case for a federal authority to support jobs and communities.
Members from Callide, Mt Piper, Eraring, Yallourn and Loy Yang A power stations joined an ACTU delegation to meet with politicians from across the political spectrum to call for urgent funding for an Energy Transition Authority.
As coal-fired power stations face accelerating closure dates, unions want an Authority with a long-term remit to oversee regional economic diversification and support for workers including multi-employer redeployment schemes, relocation packages, retraining and options for early retirement.
The MEU team met with over 25 MPs including Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke, Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development Anthony Chisholm, Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, ACT Senator David Pocock and Senate Leader Sue Lines.
Others, including Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen, attended a briefing addressed by ACTU President Michele O’Neil and MEU delegate and Eraring Power Station worker Scott King.
Scott told the briefing of the shock he experienced when in February last year, Eraring’s closure date was brought forward by seven years to 2025.
“We were all blindsided and shocked to the core.
“To put this into context in 2017 workers in my power plant were told we would close in 2032.
“The transition is inevitable. As this transition takes place – there’s a lot of talk about the future net zero economy. But for those of us caught up at the frontline of the transition don’t’ know what we are transitioning to.
“My employer has brought in training specialists to assist us with retraining – but no-one can tell us what we should be retraining to or where the jobs will be.
“The people in the industry who for generations have powered our country have no security about on-going jobs. As workers, we are worried that we will become a stranded asset.”
MEU Delegate Richard Clark from the Latrobe Valley’s Loy Yang A Power Station said his priority was protecting his community. “I came to Canberra to advocate for my community to make sure we don’t get left behind as we transition away from coal-fired power stations.”
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