A multinational oil and gas company’s plan to shut down one of its refineries will leave affected employees with hardly any career pathways, an industry body warns.
Industry advocates are devastated by ExxonMobil’s conclusion that it is not worth its while to continue processing crude oil into a variety of petroleum products at its Altona Refinery.
After an “extensive review” the proponent decided to gradually phase-out the almost 72-year-old operation and redevelop the site into an import terminal. It blamed tough competition, falling domestic crude oil production and future capital investments for impacting on operating earnings.
Up to 350 job losses
The new strategy will affect up to 350 employees and the United Workers Union (UWU) fears many of them are unlikely to find equivalent jobs elsewhere due to the lack of pathways for skilled workers to transition to renewable energy and other industries.
“The Altona refinery workers are highly skilled and valued by their employer,” UWU national secretary Tim Kennedy said in a public statement.
“However, our domestic labour market has been hollowed out so extensively that these workers will likely not have equivalent jobs to move into once the site closes – this is a failure of vision.”
‘Terrible missed opportunity’
The union blames the federal government for failing to create new opportunities before “secure and decent” jobs are destroyed.
“For decades workers have been told they must skill-up for the future or be left behind – that is exactly what these workers did,” Kennedy said.
“Yet this government has failed to provide opportunities that match these skills. The closure of the Altona site, without any plan to repurpose these workers’ skills for future industries, is a terrible missed opportunity.”
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ExxonMobil confirmed it will downsize its Altona workforce despite being offered both federal and state assistance to keep the business afloat.
“We extend our thanks to the federal government for the significant support offered to Altona and other refineries. Our decision to convert our facility to a terminal is not a reflection of those efforts,” ExxonMobil Australia chairman Nathan Fay said in a public statement.
The looming closure means Australia will only have two oil refineries left, including Viva Energy’s Geelong Refinery and Ampol’s Lytton Refinery near the Port of Brisbane.