ExxonMobil is set to close its Altona oil refinery plant which has been operational for 70 years, putting 350 jobs at risk. Is it disappointing that news of the closure broke late Tuesday evening via an anonymous tip to the media, before the company held discussions with workers affected by the closure.
Australia has witnessed several significant closures in advanced manufacturing over the past twelve months across construction, pharmaceuticals and energy. This comes at a time when global supply chains have been put under pressure by the Covid-19 pandemic, signalling a strong need for Australia to strengthen its domestic advanced manufacturing capabilities. However in the absence of a clear plan for the future of energy supply and manufacturing in Australia, many multinational corporations are pulling out of Australia.
Australian ExxonMobil workers are rated #1 in the world by their own employer. That means Australia has been exporting high quality refinery skills to the rest of the world, yet their own government has not created the domestic policy settings needed to support them and keep advanced manufacturing in Australia. The skills of refinery workers are transferable to renewable industries however the Federal Government has failed to create such opportunities and these world class skills will now be lost.
Quotes attributable to Tim Kennedy, National Secretary United Workers Union
“There is nothing inevitable about the destruction of secure and decent jobs. The Altona refinery workers are highly skilled and valued by their employer. 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. If we want to be a country that can ensure a secure and decent job for everyone who wants one, the Federal Government needs to invest in just transition and quality jobs of the future.”
“For decades workers have been told they must skill-up for the future or be left behind. That’s exactly what these workers did. 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.”