AGL urged to find workable power deal to save 2,000 Portland jobs

Image: ABC

AGL has been warned that an unreasonable deal on power for the troubled Alcoa Portland smelter could hurt the power company’s reputation, with a decision on the future of the aluminium plant expected to come in the next fortnight.

The Australian reports that AGL is being urged to agree to a workable deal, and that the closure of the smelter would also be a financial problem for the power company.

AGL has cited the closure of the Hazelwood power plant in justifying power price increases.

AGL, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and treasurer Tim Pallas, and federal industry minister Greg Hunt would not comment on discussions. Hunt, however, said a fair and speedy resolution was in AGL’s interests.

“It would be unthinkable for a major electricity company to consciously and deliberately force 2000 workers out of a job,” The Australian reports Hunt as saying.

The future of the smelter has been under a cloud since a 20-year, Victorian government-subsidised power contract came to an end in November. Last month a power outage saw its situation worsen further, with one pot line solidifying and the plant running at about quarter of its capacity since.

Federal and Victorian government ministers have flown to Alcoa’s New York headquarters in the last month for discussions with the company, and a reported $230 million in assistance from governments has been offered to keep the site running.

The ABC reports that workers scheduled to return to the plant this week were offered extended leave and “approximately two thirds of the workforce remain on leave”, according to Alcoa.

The Australian Workers Union expects a decision to be made by Alcoa, which says assistance offers are being “carefully reviewed”, in the next fortnight.