Tribute to the workers of Hazelwood

Today is a very sad day for all Hazelwood workers, their families and the wider mining community in the Latrobe Valley.

The Hazelwood power station has supplied power and jobs to Victorians for generations and, even with the Worker Transfer Agreement, the whole community will feel the impact of this closure.

The Executive today pays tribute to all workers’ resilience and determination to get a better deal after Hazelwood closes – you have stood up and fought when governments, investors and business would otherwise have done nothing.

You are the victims of short-sighted companies who have spent the past twenty years since privatisation taking profit while failing to invest; and short-sighted governments who have looked the other way when they should have planned for the future.

We are sure that if governments had taken notice of the CFMEU’s push for Just Transition earlier, we would have a better outcome today.

We must acknowledge what’s been achieved here - we have an Australia-first agreement in the Worker Transfer Scheme. While it is far from perfect it is a remarkable achievement after the company reneged on plans to stay open to 2025 and walked out giving only four months notice.

Make no mistake - the fight here in the Latrobe Valley is not over. We will be fighting under this Agreement to get every job possible out of this scheme for Hazelwood workers.

We must also continue fighting for all workers across the country because private owners of the coal fired power stations around Australia have announced they will all close as they reach their expected design life.

What we’ve learnt from the Hazelwood experience is that Governments can’t let private companies dictate the timetable for closures. Governments should step in to protect the interests of consumers, workers and their communities. Private employers should also be compelled to hire all redundant workers until the pool is exhausted. It should be a shared responsibility and a shared cost.

This Victorian Partnership Agreement with the State Government, power station operators and workers was possible because you came together through your union to ensure no-one is left behind with the Hazelwood closure.

Workers at Hazelwood should be proud they have set a precedent that will benefit thousands of other workers around the country.

Let’s be clear about why we are here today: the Federal Government – including Malcolm Turnbull – turned his back on mining and energy communities across Australia. Considering state governments are responsible for this essential service – we now look to them for a solution.

We congratulate the Victorian District leadership, delegates and members for their solidarity and determination: Trevor Williams, Geoff Dyke and Peter Waanders have demonstrated strong leadership in difficult times. Special mention has to be made of Mark Richards and the other Hazelwood workers who have done a superb job in the media being the public face of workforce and community.

Workers United will never be Defeated.

 

Tony Maher