UPDATE: Shell has provided an update on the Gangarri solar project after a mass sacking of hundreds of workers in early February. Pic: Supplied
UPDATE: Shell has provided an update on the Gangarri solar project after a mass sacking of hundreds of workers in early February. Pic: Supplied

UPDATE: Shell provides update on controversial Gangarri solar project

Controversy has surrounded Shell Energy Australia's Gangarri solar project in the Western Downs since hundreds of casual workers were fired with no notice after an alleged contractual dispute.

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Shell's major contractor Sterling and Wilson hired Davis Contracting's recruitment group Torque - who sent hundreds of casual workers a text terminating their employment hours before work.

A Shell Energy Australia spokeswoman has fired back at the Electrical Trade Union's allegations that work on the project had ground to a halt since February 8 when the 230 workers were fired.

The spokeswoman said work is continuing and they remain committed to the safe delivery of the project, which will deliver 120 megawatts of solar electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 300,000 tonnes a year.

The spokeswoman said many employees had been on site, including construction and installation workers.
Only 13 per cent of the contract work had been completed on the project, which it set to be completed during 2021.

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The Electrical Trades Union has been working with Sterling and Wilson to resolve any issues and ensure the workers aren't the ones who bear the brunt of their employer's contractual dispute.

ETU's Southwest Queensland organiser Dan McGaw said there had been no construction progress on the solar project since the 'brutal' sacking, and said Shell should be doing more to protect workers on their projects, regardless if they're employed through one of their contactors or directly.

"There hasn't been one tool lifted since that Monday… there may be people in the offices, but there's been no blue-collar workforce on site," he said.

"Shell knew 48hrs beforehand that the workers were getting fired, I saw the emails, and they sat there and did nothing, it's makes me so angry that multinational companies can come to our shores and treat Australian workers this way."

The impromptu sacking put a spotlight on the energy industries preference of casual workers, and whether agreements are fair.

When the workers were first let go Mr McGaw said he has fears with more solar projects being built in the region, more blue-collar workers will be taken advantage.

"The renewal industry should not be casual, it's usually for someone who works in a coffee shop 12 hours a week, not an electrician or a mechanical worker doing 60 plus hours every week," he said.

"The solar industry is a bit of a cowboy industry at the moment where there are a lot of uncertainty in the industry, so until contractors can sort their rates out and do the right thing by the owners of the solar farms and workers, I think we might see more of this in the future."

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