In-house contractor signs on for controversial Shell Solar Farm
Shell's primary contractor for the Western Downs Gangarri Solar Farm, Sterling and Wilson, who was allegedly involved in a million-dollar payment dispute that left 300 workers fired, had signed on a new electrical contractor after terminating previous agreements.
Chinchilla News understands at the beginning of February Sterling and Wilson allegedly owed at least $6m to Davis Contracting, which resulted in DC's recruitment group Torque, firing hundreds of casual blue-collar workers at the drop of a hat hours before their shift on Monday, February 8.
The contract between the international Indian-based solar farm builder, and the labour hire company Davis Contracting was terminated by S&W, who have since replaced them with the Australia-based electrical and solar contractor GCo - who S&W bought out in February 2021.
According to Renewables Now, S&W has a 76 per cent ownership stake in GCo after buying 792,000 fully paid-up equity shares worth AUD 1 (USD 0.776/EUR 0.642) each.
As these multinational companies continue to make big moves which directly affect the blue-collar workers on the ground, the Electrical Trades Union said it has set a concerning precedent of how Australian workers are to be treated.
Electrical Trades Union Southwest Queensland organiser Dan McGaw said Shell needs to better protect their workers, regardless of whether they are employees or subcontractors.
"I'm concerned moving into the future we'll see more issues for solar farm workers- the companies haven't learnt anything from this," he said.
"The workers under this new contract will be paid less than those who were working on the project just four weeks ago.
"And they will no longer get travelling allowance - it's not right."
Mr McGaw said because there's no local accommodation in the rural town of Wandoan, workers will have to travel hundreds of unpaid kilometres from places like Brisbane to work on the project.
As Shell Australia forges on with their major renewable project, which it set to be Australia's largest solar farm, a spokeswoman said the company is aware of the contract dispute but would not comment on the nature of the disagreement.
"Shell's relationship is directly with (Sterling & Wilson) - we continue to work with S&W to ensure safe delivery of the Gangarri Project, which remains important to Shell," she said.
The industrial scale project, which is supposed to be completed in 2021, will generate 120 megawatts of solar electricity from about 400,000 photovoltaic panels which will feed into their gas plants.
The Chinchilla News asked Sterling and Wilson about the $6m they allegedly owe, and the pay cut to their contract workers and a spokesman said, "we are not in a position to comment on the details of commercial arrangements."
"Sterling and Wilson Solar Limited remains committed to delivering this project and continues to engage a range of stakeholders, including subcontractors," he said.