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'Absolute disgrace': Unions, workers draw battlelines with bosses

UPDATE 4.45pm:

GLADSTONE Power Station workers are preparing for an epic battle if their bosses enforce new employee conditions described as "a kick in the guts".

Union organiser Craig Giddins said Gladstone could see a showdown similar to the size of the Carlton United Breweries dispute mid last year after the brewery axed a long-standing maintenance contract.

 

NRG power station workers meet to discuss futher action.
NRG power station workers meet to discuss futher action. Mike Richards GLA210417NRGP

NRG workers to vote on controversial agreement

The Electrical Trades Union central Queensland state organiser fronted about 50 power station workers today for a meeting about their legal rights.

This included what to do if they are "locked out" like CUB workers were.

The face off was prompted by the release of a draft Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which was strongly opposed by the unions, for a workers' vote.

The vote was finalised on Friday and a result is expected on Monday. In a statement released to the media on Tuesday, acting general manager Nigel Warrington said NRG had made a reasonable offer to workers.

"(The EBA) proposes no changes to existing wages, hours, leave, superannuation and other benefits for existing employees and is maintaining all award protections such as consultation and redundancy provisions," Mr Warrington said.

Laying bare their stance against the changes, the unions will launch a ballot vote with the Australian Fair Work Commission next week for protected industrial action for NRG workers.

"If workers take industrial action bosses will try to sweat people out by locking them out," he said.

"People are working pay packet to pay packet, they think they can financially starve them. That won't work for these workers though."

One of the aspects Mr Giddins said was most concerning in the EBA was a two-tiered pay system which meant new workers would be paid less.

 

NRG Power Station workers met with unions today over their legal rights ahead of the result of a ballot vote results for their proposed EBA.
NRG Power Station workers met with unions today over their legal rights ahead of the result of a ballot vote results for their proposed EBA. Mike Richards GLA210417NRGP

"It's an absolute disgrace that they can play with the workers' livelihoods like this," he said.

"We will use every legal avenue available to stop the worst of what the company wants to do to the employees."

LOOKING BACK | EBA negotiations at Gladstone Power Station

>> 'Very nasty': NRG workers protest outside power station

>>'No changes to existing wages': NRG responds to power station protest

Mr Giddins worries that if it is rejected, managers will take the EBA to the Fair Work Commission to be terminated.

If so, they would re-negotiate a new agreement with the commissioner, workers and unions.

NRG declined to comment on what it would do if workers rejected the proposal.

Meanwhile, Australian Workers Union spokesperson Tony Beers proposed the power station find ways to lower the electricity bills of Gladstone households and businesses.

"Show you're backing the community, and then maybe workers will consider what you're putting forward," he said.

"We're calling on them to do it and we want them to come clean with what they can do to help our community."

EARLIER 10am:

GLADSTONE Power Station workers will have a mass meeting with union organisers today as they continue to fight proposed changes to their employee agreement.

This week NRG managers released a draft Enterprise Bargaining Agreement to workers for a ballot vote, expected to be finished today.

EARLIER |

NRG workers to vote on controversial agreement

Electrical Trade Union central Queensland state president Craig Giddins described the proposal as "a kick in the guts" to the workforce that's already at its absolute minimum.

He's expecting the ballot result, due for release today or Monday, to be a "resounding no".

Craig Giddins.NRG power station workers meet to discuss futher action.
Craig Giddins.NRG power station workers meet to discuss futher action. Mike Richards GLA210417NRGP

The proposal has divided managers and unions, with operators claiming it's a fair deal, but unions arguing the new EBA is far from acceptable.

In a statement released to the media on Tuesday, acting general manager Nigel Warrington said NRG had made a reasonable offer to workers.

LOOKING BACK | EBA negotiations at Gladstone Power Station

>> 'Very nasty': NRG workers protest outside power station

>>'No changes to existing wages': NRG responds to power station protest

"(The EBA) proposes no changes to existing wages, hours, leave, superannuation and other benefits for existing employees and is maintaining all award protections such as consultation and redundancy provisions," Mr Warrington said.

Gladstone Power Station.
Gladstone Power Station. Mike Richards GLA100215NITE

 

"The existing EBA has terms and conditions that are more than 20 years old and NRG is proposing a new EBA to bring the power station in line with the rest of the power industry."

Mr Giddins will speak with workers today in a 12.30pm mass meeting about the proposal, and the union's next moves to fight it.

"The difference between the two awards is chalk and cheese," he said.

One of the aspects Mr Giddins says is most concerning in the EBA is a two-tiered pay system that would mean new workers would be paid less.

Watch: NRG workers protest proposed changes

 

 

He added the new agreement would also make it easier for NRG to bring in contractors.

Mr Giddins said the union was looking into how they can take further action via the Fair Work Commission to "put pressure" on the company.

"It's an absolute disgrace that they can play with the worker's livelihoods like this," he said.

"We will use every legal avenue available to stop the worst of what the company wants to do to the employees."

With 98% of the workforce union members, according to Mr Giddins, he's sure the result will be a "resounding no" from the workers.

"It's an absolute travesty after being an employee of choice for the Gladstone region for all these years, and they are now resulting to these lowlife tactics," he said.

NRG has been contacted for further comment.

Topics:  gladstoneindustry gladstone power station nrg

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