Industry job losses continue

The COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of the oil price continues to be felt in Australasia’s oil and gas industry.

Following reports last week that Woodside had stood down 400 contract workers offshore Western Australia, the energy giant has this week cut hundreds more jobs, with the Australian Workers Union (AWU) saying the tally was as high as 500.

The cuts were at Woodside’s Karratha Gas Plant and Pluto LNG project, both in WA, although the company is yet to confirm if the number is correct.

Offshore Alliance and AWU National Secretary Spokesperson Daniel Walton said Woodside’s actions contrasted with companies like Shell and Jadestone, which had consulted with unions and employees in order to minimise the impact of COVID-19.

“Everyone understands changes have to be made and pain has to be shared,” said Mr Walton.

“But Woodside’s treatment of its workers is brutal, cold, and unnecessary.

“The nation of Australia has been spectacularly good to Woodside over recent years, you’d think it’s now time for Woodside to return just a little of the favour.

“Australia desperately needs workers like these to retain some optimism if our economy is to avoid a depression.

“Woodside is being an appalling corporate citizen by refusing to lift a finger to help.”

After the first round of job losses, Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said “this is not business as usual”.

“To comply with expert health and government guidance we are reducing the number of people at our facilities and working with our contractors, suppliers and communities to minimise the impact of the pandemic,” he said.

“We acknowledge the broader social and economic impacts from the current COVID-19 situation.

“We are working closely with our contractors and suppliers on measures to mitigate impacts on their businesses and their employees.”

Unions fear more job cuts are to come, with Chevron’s head office in the US announcing this week it plans to reduce operating costs by more than US$1 billion (AU$1.67 billion) by the end of 2020.

Chevron Australia operates the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects in WA, where staff deemed “non-essential” could be mobilised offsite.

Adding to industry challenges, Santos announced it would be delaying a final investment decision on its Barossa project due to the recent collapse of the oil price, while Oil Search is also looking to reduce operational costs in Papua New Guinea.

Last week, industry groups APGA and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) said they are continuing to work with companies and the government to ensure the industry keeps running as best it can.

APPEA CEO Andrew McConville said oil and gas was vital to Australia’s economy.

“The oil and gas industry underpins around 80,000 direct and indirect jobs – and hundreds of thousands of Australian jobs rely on the reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of oil and gas,” said Mr McConville.

“The resilience of our business is essential in maintaining the broader health of our economy and is our key focus during this challenging period.”

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