The political debate over closing Hazelwood has largely ignored those who actually work there. CFMEU members at Hazelwood held a mass meeting in early November to demand a say in what happens at their workplace.
Workers are angry at being shut out of the debate. They are also angry that Hazelwood’s owner, International Power, circulated a news brief attempting to gag them from speaking out about their future.
They passed two resolutions unanimously. The first demanded a say in any “discussions” about the future of Hazelwood, the second condemned and rejected International Power’s attempted gag.
The first motion called on “all parties involved in discussions about the future of the Hazelwood power station/mine to fully consider the welfare of the Hazelwood workforce, their families and the Latrobe Valley communities adversely affected by any closure of Hazelwood, as the priority consideration,” and that “regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming Victorian election, this meeting authorises our lodge and branch officials to call any further mass meetings of Hazelwood power station workers to consider any appropriate action in the event that the Victorian government fails to honour either proper consultation with our union or proper and adequate compensation for the workers and communities of the Latrobe Valley adversely affected by any proposed closure of Hazelwood.”
If Hazelwood shut with compensation for the owners, but only crumbs for the workers and community, it would be a disaster for the climate movement. It would make workers cynical about the idea of a just transition, and generate hostility towards the climate movement.
It would effectively be a free kick for the coal bosses.
The climate movement must support the Hazelwood workers. Messages from local Climate Action Groups to the CFMEU supporting the mass meeting resolutions would be a good start.
International Power doesn’t care about the planet and they don’t care about their workforce—the climate and union movements need to unite against this common foe, to fight for both.
By Chris Breen