NO WARNING: The Electrical Trades Union has expressed concern over workers’ rights after the ‘brutal’ sacking of hundreds of southwest solar workers. Pic: Supplied
NO WARNING: The Electrical Trades Union has expressed concern over workers’ rights after the ‘brutal’ sacking of hundreds of southwest solar workers. Pic: Supplied

Fair work fears after ‘brutal’ sacking of 230 solar workers

An alleged contract dispute which led to at least 230 Gangarri Solar farm workers losing their jobs at the drop of the hat has put the spotlight on workers' rights - or lack thereof.

According to the Electrical Trades Union, every worker at the Shell QGC 120MW solar farm near Wandoan is employed on a casual basis, which resulted in hundreds of casual workers being fired with no notice earlier this week.

ETU's state secretary Peter Ong said the circumstances surrounding the brutal sacking by text message at 6am Monday morning, February 8, lay bare failings of the coalition's industrial relations agenda.

"We have an appalling situation where hardworking Queenslanders, electricians and mechanical fitters have been sacked due to a 'contractual disagreement' between two companies Davis Contracting and Sterling & Wilson," Mr Ong said.

"The workers… and their families face an uncertain future. It's brutal and it's disgusting."

A Shell QGC spokeswoman said they could not speak on behalf of another company and specific contractual issues, although noted despite the lay-offs, work on the Gangarri Solar Project has not stopped.

"We are aware there have been some issues with the arrangements between Sterling & Wilson Solar and their subcontractors," the spokeswoman said.

"Work on the project remains ongoing, and Shell remains committed to the safe delivery of this project, which will generate ongoing benefits to the local community, deliver 120 megawatts of solar electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 300,000 tonnes a year."

Mr Ong said the mass sacking highlighted industry-wide mistreatment of casual and labour hire workers and is why the ETU will be campaigning for more rights for casual workers not less.

"Big businesses like Sterling & Wilson have exploited the loopholes in the Fair Work legislation, where they can let workers go at a whim, they don't care how the workers are treated, it's all about getting the biggest bang for their buck," he said.

"The LNP… designed the legislation to ensure maximum flexibility at the expense of job security and this has resulted in these kinds of business models of exploitation."

Mr Ong praised the IR blueprint presented by ALP Leader Anthony Albanese which would allegedly see protections and rights for casual employees enshrined in legislation.

"The renewables industry should be providing secure jobs to Australian workers employed by local contractors who pay their bills, we will continue to fight for better protections for casual workers and labour hire as well as certainty and accountability in this important sector," Mr Ong said.

When asked if the contact dispute would disrupt the projects plan to be completed in 2021, Shell's spokeswoman said, "we have no further updates on the expected project timeline at present."

Davis Contracting and Sterling & Wilson have been contacted for comment.






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