Labour hire ‘betrayal’

 The CFMEU and Gippsland Trades and Labour Council are unhappy about the use of non-local workers by a contractor at Yallourn Power Station. file photograph

The CFMEU and Gippsland Trades and Labour Council are unhappy about the use of non-local workers by a contractor at Yallourn Power Station. file photograph

Unionists have accused a Melbourne-based company contracted to undertake work at Yallourn Power Station of betraying the people of Gippsland after hiring contractors from outside the region to do the job.

Local unions believe the work being carried out at the station to remove asbestos from unit one to be worth between $6000 to $10,000 for each worker on the job.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser Toby Thornton slammed the company, Johns Lyng Group - Hazrem, for overlooking "dozens of locals" who are "suitably qualified to do the job".

"They've brought [the workers] all up from Melbourne. It's money that could be spent on school fees for our local people," Mr Thornton said.

The project is in its second stage and eight out of the 29 workers on the job live within the region.

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council secretary Steve Dodd said local workers were "absolutely devastated" after being trained in areas such as asbestos removal and "basically then told 'don't bother to apply'".

Mr Dodd referred to a meeting following the closure of Hazelwood Power Station where the region's power generators committed to using local workers on future jobs in an attempt to tackle the region's high unemployment rate.

"This is a real slap in the face for local workers. It is a betrayal of the commitment that this company gave to not only the unions but also to the Victorian government and the premier," Mr Dodd said.

"This issue up at Yallourn where we see a Melbourne-based company come down with Melbourne-based workers while we have got unemployed local workers who have all the qualifications, we see that as an utter betrayal by EnergyAustralia in not supporting local jobs in this region.

"It would not only support these local families, but also gives them a chance to spend it in the local community. "We're missing out on that because the Melbourne-based workers get paid and take their wages to Melbourne and spend them there."

The first stage of work, which employed 21 local people on the 27-person job over a five-month period, involved asbestos removal on the rising conveyor with scaffolding erected around the two conveyors to remove asbestos cladding.

Now into the second stage, work is being undertaken in preparation for the removal of lagging pipes throughout the boiler and turbine which will follow a seven-day shut down for the execution.

"People are missing out on probably $6000-$10,000 in wages. That would go a long way to supporting those workers; it is very big for an unemployed worker to do these jobs and get that cash coming back through the door," Mr Dodd said.

"We don't have any angst against people from another region but we would think that if we've trained our own people and they're ready and raring to go, they would give them an opportunity to apply for these jobs."

EnergyAustralia distanced itself from any direct involvement with the hiring of workers from outside the region but revealed it received three good tenders for the work following a competitive two-month tender process for the job.

In a statement, an EnergyAustralia spokesman said two tenders were from Latrobe Valley businesses, with a third being Johns Lyng Group - Hazrem from Melbourne which was the "best overall tender".

"While the winning bidder, Hazrem, is based in Melbourne, around a third of the firm's workforce for the asbestos removal project are Latrobe Valley locals," the EnergyAustralia spokesman said.

Work on the project is expected to be completed by the end of the week but in a statement a Johns Lyng Group spokesman said it was the company's intention to utilise local labour where appropriate.

"We disagree with comments made by Mr Dodd, and find them unfortunate, given our commitment to employing locally," the spokesman said.

"His statements are false and with respect he does not have insight into how we operate with a focus on local employment. The second phase of the works (still underway) are of a sophisticated nature, requiring highly specific skills and extensive experience.

"We were also faced with a short time frame for completion and being a critical shut-down of industrial equipment, the project was naturally high risk. Despite a comprehensive search, these specific skills were not readily available in the local area."

The group said a majority of the non-local staff had been employed to facilitate "highly specific skill set tasks".

"Every effort has been made to utilise local labour. Johns Lyng operates out of an office in Moe, with local staff and sub-contractors being utilized almost exclusively on projects within the region," the spokesman said.

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