WALK OFF: Contracted workers walk off the job at Tarong power station disputing changes to the enterprise bargaining agreement.
WALK OFF: Contracted workers walk off the job at Tarong power station disputing changes to the enterprise bargaining agreement. Matt Collins

Tarong workers walk off job over proposed pay cuts

CONTRACTED workers at Tarong Power Station have walked off the job today on the back of disagreements over a new proposed enterprise bargaining agreement

Downer employees currently working at the Tarong Power Station have been presented with a new EBA which includes a pay drop of 10 per cent and an increased working week from 36 hours to 38 hours per week.

One of the contracted workers who chose to remain anonymous said this all came as a bit of a shock.

"I first found out about the new EBA when I turned up a couple of weeks ago," they said.

"I couldn't believe it, to me it doesn't make sense."

According to the worker, Downer has justified the 10 per cent pay cut claiming they want to be more competitive in the market and be able to win more work.

But the contracted workers are asking why the company cutbacks have to come from their wages.

"Where does it stop that's the thing, where does it stop?" the anonymous worker said.

They said workers would have understood if the request was for a hold on any pay increases but a pay cut was unacceptable.

"A pay freeze is one thing that I think most of us would have expected for the company to stay competitive, we understand that," they said.

"But a 10 per cent drop in our wages plus going from a 36 hour week up to 38 hourr week that cuts out opportunities for overtime."

The worker was concerned this proposed pay cut would just be the start of things to come.

"It's a job with lots of responsibility and lots of danger involved," they said.

"I just think by paying the blokes less you are going to lose that pool of good workers and start a race to the bottom."

The obvious risk with the walk off is that Downer will get a new crew and the current workers will be out of a job.

"It would be a financial inconvenience to say the least, I have come a long way to be here to work," they said.

"We put our lives on hold to come and do this sort of work."

Some of the workers had been with the company for many years but they seem to think that doesn't count for too much these days.

"Maybe I'm cynical but I don't think big business understands loyalty to any great extent," they said.

The workers are adamant that just lying down and accepting this pay drop will only mean more cuts in the future.

"You don't have to look too far back to see what happens when you don't stand up in times like this," they said.

"Conditions and pay rates have experienced a significant decline, the heyday is gone."

The contracted workers will be represented by Phil Goldby, state organiser for Gladestone and Central region at the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

Mr Goldby said he was prepared to assist his members to keep their current pay rates and entitlements.

"At the end of the day the only way we will get that is if we fight for it," he said.

The AMWU representative said the way in which the workers were delivered this information was not suitable.

"Some of the language that was used with the workers was inappropriate," he said.

Downer was contacted in relation to this story and they chose not to make comment.