Trade unions and the Labor Party have reacted with anger at news that yet another Australian oil refinery is to close.
ExxonMobil confirmed yesterday that its 90,000 barrel-a-day refinery at Altona in Melbourne is to be closed and converted into an oil product import terminal. Around 350 jobs are to be cut.
Late last year, BP announced a similar fate for its Kwinana refinery in WA, with the loss of around 600 jobs. Operations are scheduled to end by the middle of this year.
PM should intervene to save jobs, says Labor Party
But the ALP and unions are, understandably, not happy.
“Labor demands that Scott Morrison intervene to save thousands of jobs in Victoria following the announcement of the closure of ExxonMobil oil refinery at Altona,” Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said.
“This is devastating news for hundreds of local workers and for the future of Australia’s fuel security.
Decision will impact workers in downstream industry
“This decision will cost hundreds of direct jobs and impact thousands of workers in downstream industry. This is further proof that the Government has no plan for workers affected by these decisions,” Albanese said.
According to an ALP statement, Australia’s petrochemical manufacturers all rely on by-products produced from the ExxonMobil refinery. These manufacturers will likely need assistance, given the year they’ve had through Covid, to ensure they don’t close
The Government had now overseen the closure of half of the country’s domestic refineries in the last six months, the ALP said.
Too many closures in the manufacturing industry
In its own statement, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) claimed that workers at Altona were not even offered the dignity of being informed first by their employer through the proper channels, but instead found out through an anonymous leak to the media.
“Australia has suffered too many significant closures in the advanced manufacturing industry in recent years, with thousands of workers left behind and very little being done to create new, secure jobs,” said ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly.
“The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the weakness and vulnerability of our supply chains in critical sectors of our economy, including fuel supply.
Decision was made following a review of operations
“But instead of stimulating Australia’s manufacturing sector and strengthening our domestic capabilities, the Morrison Government is standing by letting sectors be shut down, with massive ramifications in downstream industries.”
ExxonMobil said the decision was made following an extensive review of operations at the plant. The review considered the competitive supply of products into Australia, declining domestic crude production, future capital investments and the impacts of these factors on operating earnings.
The company warned in November that Altona was operating at a loss due to the impact of the pandemic on fuel demand in Victoria.