(Releads with lockout called off)
By James Regan
SYDNEY Dec 15 Australia's AGL Energy Ltd
said on Thursday it was withdrawing plans for an
employee lockout at its Loy Yang power station and coal mine
after industrial action proposed by union workers was called
Australia's second-most populous state, Victoria, was facing
a severe power shortage over the Christmas holidays due to the
lockout scheduled for Dec. 28.
In response to union plans to stage a work stoppage, AGL
earlier on Thursday countered with plans lock out all 578
employees at both sites in Victoria to protect the safety of
employees and equipment.
"As a result of this withdrawal, there is no longer any need
for AGL to take employer response action," the company said in a
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 would have been disrupted.
The actions were part of an escalating feud between AGL and
the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union over stalled
talks on wages and working conditions.
A stoppage would have left 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.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Tom Hogue and Christian