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Geelong Advertiser (Australia): 300 Shell jobs in doubt

Kerri-Ann Hobbs

Thursday 08 November 2007

UP to 300 maintenance jobs at Shell’s Geelong refinery are in doubt after the company last week told staff it was bringing in a single contractor next year.

About 20 Geelong specialist companies contract to the oil refinery but staff are worried many will not be rehired by the yet-to-be-named contractor, sources said.

Yet Shell denied mass lay-offs, saying it expected the new specialist staffing company to rehire those currently working at the refinery.

“We are all running around worried because we don’t know if we have jobs,” one worker, who didn’t want to be named because he feared reprisals from Shell, told the Geelong Advertiser.

“These companies that have contracts with Shell . . . they’re all local companies.

“The new company will probably pick up some of us workers but there’s some of us that are going to be left out of a job.”

The worker said he believed the global oil giant should show greater loyalty to the city and its workers, especially given recent cutbacks by other manufacturing companies in the region.

Shell’s communications manager Joan McGovern said the company expected the new contractor would be operating by mid-2008.

“Under the new arrangement, all maintenance work, minor projects and minor turnarounds now contracted at the Geelong refinery will be consolidated under one principal contractor,” she said. “The current contracting company has been given significant notice to allow it and its employees to prepare for the change with the aim of ensuring a safe and smooth transition to which ever new contracting company is successful.”

Ms McGovern said the changes flowed from a review of the plant’s maintenance contract aimed at improving efficiency and safety while reducing costs.

A Geelong contracting company, whose manager didn’t want to be named because he feared his staff would not be rehired under the changes, said he could not guarantee his employees would have work by June 2008.

 “We are just held in limbo,”he said. “That’s the uncertainty of everything and the companies affected don’t know what to do. There’s a lot of really worried people who don’t know what their future’s going to be.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Leigh Diehm  said the union had tried unsuccessfully to talk to Shell about the changes.

“Hopefully at the end of the day it’s not a way of Shell attempting to do anything radically different but just having a different process for engaging contractors on the site,” Mr Diehm said.

State MP John Eren, who recently co-hosted a  summit in Geelong aimed at reviving manufacturing jobs, said he would be disappointed if local positions were lost during the contract changes.
 
http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2007/11/08/8691_news.html

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