SYDNEY Dec 15 Australia's second-most populous
state faces a severe power shortage over the Christmas holidays
due to a staff lock-out at the Yoy Lang power station and coal
mine, energy provider AGL Energy Ltd said on Thursday.
In response to union plans to stage a work stoppage on Dec.
28, AGL said it will lock out 578 employees at both sites in
Victoria state to protect the safety of employees and equipment.
AGL warned the lockout would create a "significant
disruption" and put power supplies at risk. The lockout could
leave the power station and mine at least partially shut for
possibly up to 10 days, according to an AGL spokeswoman.
"You don't just shut something of this size down
immediately. You must prepare ahead of time and wind things
down, and then slowly ramp back up," the spokeswoman said. "It
could take up to 10 days."
The mine also supplies a second power station owned by
France's Engie, which means more than half the state's
energy fuel will be disrupted.
"AGL will not stand by and have our customers and the
broader community risk being without power in summer due to
industrial action," the station's general manager, Steve
Rieniets said in a statement.
"We are also concerned that industrial action may place the
safety of our operations, our plant and our people at risk,"
AGL's move is part of its escalating feud in Victoria with
the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union over stalled
talks over wages and working conditions.
A stoppage would leave one of the state's biggest
industrial users, the Portland aluminium smelter, without power,
according to a spokesman for the metal processing plant.
The smelter, co-owned by Alcoa, CITIC Resources
and an arm of Marubeni Corp, produces about
300,000 tonnes of aluminium a year. A long power outage can
cause molten aluminium to solidify inside the smelter.
The state government has made an application to the Fair
Work Commission, which oversees labour disputes, in hopes of
having the lockout or a union strike terminated and reopening
negotiations between the union and AGL.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Tom Hogue)