Three hundred workers assembled at the entry of the Geelong oil refinery on October 7 for a community protest against unsafe conditions at the refinery.
The 60-year-old refinery, previously operated by Shell, was bought by Viva Energy Australia in August 2014, and it immediately pledged $150 million for maintenance work.
The Geelong refinery, one of four left in Australia and the only producer of bitumen, generates $50 million a month in profits but pays no tax in Australia. It recently had millions of dollars cut from its rates bill in a deal with the Geelong City Council.
Viva Energy came under fire locally when it attempted to sack the fire fighting staff on site. Locals accused Viva of putting people’s lives at risk by cutting costs and sacking workers. There were also claims that most of the Shell employees had been sacked and replaced by workers on lower wages.
In addition, Viva has said it will use migrant workers on temporary “457 visas” at the plant. A Viva worker at the community protest said he had witnessed foreign workers removing asbestos with only wet handkerchiefs over their faces: he offered them 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 the city has been with closures and job losses, many are demanding jobs for local workers.