Safety fears as Shell 'downsizes' work force

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Safety fears as Shell 'downsizes' work force

Safety fears as Shell 'downsizes' work force

By Rupen Savoulian

SYDNEY — The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says that Shell management's plans to reduce the work force at the Clyde oil refinery in Sydney's western suburbs may endanger refinery workers and the local community.

Shell wants to cut the number of workers allocated to fire control duties during each shift from 10 to six.

Garry Smith, the oil refinery manager, claims safety at the plant will not be compromised. Smith argued that the staff cuts, currently before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, are necessary for Shell to maintain "commercial viability in an increasingly competitive environment".

CFMEU official Lorraine Usher said that the recent gas disaster in Victoria highlights the need to maintain current staff levels on fire control duties.

Shell management had reneged on a three-year award agreement signed in December 1996, she said. Only 10 months after signing the agreement, Shell management announced it wanted massive redundancies and restructuring of its oil refineries.

Usher said that the location of the Clyde refinery, in the centre of the Sydney metropolitan area, would mean any disaster there would be enormous.