At least 25 families who resided and relied at Karratha Gas Plant for their livelihood found themselves in a sudden state of uncertainty as new maintenance arrangements led to the loss of 100 permanent jobs, according to the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.
Dozens of workers and their families were obliged to look for new living arrangements after Woodside, owner of Karratha gas plant, stopped the leases on company homes. Monadelphous replaced the former maintenance contractor Transfield Worley Parsons after 17 years. However, the new contractor will only be handling the core job of Transfield, resulting to the drop in jobs from 170 to 70 workers.
James Massey, AMWU organizer, said that the situation remained uncertain for many AMWU members as other outside contractors like Global Construction Services and Downer EDI were delegated with work. Some workers were able to get jobs at Monadelphous’ plant near town, but they have had to settle with cleaning rather than work that uses their skills. This caused their incomes to drop $600 weekly, not enough to pay the $1500-$2000 weekly rent at Karratha.
“We’re assisting the rest of the locals to be picked up as a start, but the way things are looking is that Monadelphous is getting in companies which will only hire workers short-term, as needed. That creates tremendous uncertainty for those in town and favours casual, fly-in fly-out labour,” Massey said. At least 25 long-term residents remain unemployed, while 75 other workers were forced to leave town due to the unpredictability of their job and housing situations.
Massey believes that instead of offering permanent jobs, the companies will wait until the production shutdown in May when they will need a huge maintenance workforce.
“It’s obvious that Woodside have decided it would be cheaper to change their maintenance regime so as to have the work done by casual fly-in fly-out labour,” he said. “This will make the whole town and area suffer.”
AMWU is committed to finding a solution by working with companies so that more local workers will be employed.