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AGL to shut down Loy Yang power plant in Victoria over bitter industrial dispute

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A bitter industrial feud once again threatens to shut down Victoria’s biggest energy plant and plunge the state into an energy crisis.

For the second time since Christmas, energy producer and retailer AGL has threatened to lock out the entire workforce and shut down its Loy Yang power plant in the Latrobe Valley over proposed union action.

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The Loy Yang coal-fired power plant and mine, which together provide more than half of Victoria’s energy fuel, would be shut down from Monday, May 15.

It’s a move that has been likened to the “Qantas option”, which refers to the airline’s two-day lockout in 2011 when it grounded its entire fleet after long-running industrial action.

AGL Energy says it will close its Loy Yang A power station and mine from May 15. AGL Energy says it will close its Loy Yang A power station and mine from May 15. Photo: Paul Jones

AGL Loy Yang general manager Steve Rieniets said the plant received notice on Wednesday from the Electrical Trades Union of “consecutive stoppages” from 12am on May 15.

“The proposed industrial action would compromise the safe operations of the plant and would ultimately put Victoria’s power generation at risk,” Mr Rieniets said.

“We have no other option to resolve the bargaining dispute other than implementing this lockout. We need to lock out the entire site simultaneously with the industrial action, this will allow us to shut down the station in a systematic way to protect equipment from being damaged.”

It’s another dramatic escalation in the 18 month-long battle over pay and conditions at Loy Yang.

AGL threatened to lock out workers and shut down the plant in response to a proposed 24-hour strike over Christmas last year.

The looming crisis was narrowly averted when the Andrews government staged an emergency intervention by making an application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate both the actions of the workers and the company.

Hundreds of workers at Loy Yang¬†have twice knocked back large pay rise offers of 20 per cent over four years, due to concerns about the company’s plan to slash minimum staffing levels.

Mr Rieniets has previously said it was “hard to fathom” that, in tight economic times, the union had encouraged its members reject such a good offer.

Fairfax Media, AAP

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