Hundreds picket Geelong oil refinery

October 6, 2016
Photo: Sarah Hathway.

Three hundred workers assembled at the entry of the Geelong oil refinery on October 7 to start a community protest against unsafe conditions at the refinery.

The 60-year-old refinery, previously operated by Shell has been operated by Viva Energy Australia since August 2014, with $150 million immediate pledges for maintenance work.

The Geelong refinery, 1 of 4 left in Australia and the only producer of bitumen nationally, generates $50 million a month in profits but pays no tax in Australia and recently had millions of dollars cut from their rates bill due to a deal with the Geelong city council. 

Viva Energy came under fire locally after attempting to sack the firefighting staff on site. Comments from local community members accused Viva of putting people at risk by cutting costs and sacking workers, with claims that most of the Shell employees have be sacked and replaced by workers on lower wages.

In addition to this Viva have stated they will use migrant workers on temporary “457 visas” at the plant. A Viva worker at the community protest witnessed foreign workers removing asbestos with only a wet handkerchief over their face, so he offered them the proper safety masks.

There have been gas leaks and serious workplace accidents on site since Viva took over, including one worker losing part of their hand.

With Ford set to finally close its doors in Geelong on October 7, underlining how badly hit Geelong has been with closures and job losses, there are demands for jobs for local workers.

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