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AMWU says Shell closure will cost jobs

Friday June 8, 2012

A union says the closure of Shell’s Sydney oil refinery will lead to job losses, despite the company saying employees can be redeployed.

The company on Thursday informed the 275 employees and at least 100 contractors at the Clyde refinery, in Sydney’s west, that operations will stop from September 30.

Shell said affected staff would be supported in finding other employment, either within the terminal operations at the site, or elsewhere within Shell.

Up to 30 employees had already found other jobs, the company said.

But Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said the closure will certainly lead to job losses because Shell simply has not got enough positions for all of the affected workers.

‘There will be some limited redeployment available for people who move across to the storage facility but of course it employs far less people than the manufacturing facility does,’ he said.

‘There will also be some temporary jobs decommissioning the plant but Shell shouldn’t pretend that people aren’t going to lose their jobs out of this announcement because they will.’

The decision to close down comes almost one year after Shell decided to convert the Clyde refinery into a dedicated fuel import terminal.

‘The initial decision to close and convert Clyde, taken in July last year, was consistent with Shell’s strategy to focus its refining portfolio on larger assets and to build a profitable downstream business here in Australia,’ Shell Australia downstream president Andrew Smith said in a statement.

Mr Ayres said the Clyde refinery was still profitable but would not make as much money as moving the facility to South East Asia because of the high labour costs here and the high Australian dollar.

‘It is absolutely possible for Shell to maintain the manufacturing facility, it is a profitable operation, but what they’ve decided to do is pull their manufacturing capability back into South East Asia where they’ve got these very large facilities that are even more profitable,’ he said.

Mr Ayres said the closure will lead to the Caltex facility in Sydney’s Kurnell being the only refinery left in NSW, which will have also impact on related industries such as plastics.

‘It’s a very significant part of western Sydney’s industrial infrastructure,’ he said.

‘It’s a key part of the economy. It has a big knock-on effect on plastics and engineering and contracting.’

The AMWU would meet with its members in coming days to decide what action would be taken over the decision, Mr Ayres said.


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