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Mills stop work as power prices soar

Mills stop work as power prices soar

The EPMU is calling on the Government to step in as the commercial power crisis hits workers in the manufacturing sector.

Production has stopped at the Fletcher Steel-owned Pacific mills in Auckland because of high spot electricity prices, and the union understands that other companies are looking at suspending production. Yesterday, production at the Tiwai aluminium smelter was cut by 30 pots.

“We’ve got 350 workers at the Pacific mills sitting around twiddling their thumbs, and millions of dollars of plant sitting idle because the spot prices are so erratic,” said EPMU national secretary Andrew Little.

“The Government needs to act to make sure that industries are not at the whim of an out-of-control market.”

Workers at the Pacific mills were told this morning that there would be no production while prices were high. Spot electricity prices have risen 500 per cent this year.

“Our members have known about the situation for some time, and have been checking the prices on the Internet every half hour,” Mr Little said.

“The company is doing the same, and starting the mills up for an hour here and there when the electricity is cheap enough.”

Talks to renegotiate a collective employment agreement at the site were supposed to start this morning, but the company has asked the workers to consider rolling over the existing collective for three months in the hope that the electricity price situation will be fixed.

Mr Little said that workers would consider the company’s request at a meeting at the site at 8.30am tomorrow. Company managers would be invited to the meeting to explain the situation.

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