Work has stopped on a Western Downs Solar Farm after hundreds of contractors were ‘brutally sacked’ via text message. Pic: Supplied
Work has stopped on a Western Downs Solar Farm after hundreds of contractors were ‘brutally sacked’ via text message. Pic: Supplied

Western Downs solar farm grinds to halt after ‘brutal’ mass sacking

The construction of the Gangarri Solar Farm near Wandoan has ground to a halt after more than 200 workers woke up to a 'brutal' text message firing them because of an alleged contract dispute between their employers.

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It is the first solar farm to be built by international giants Shell Energy Australia, through their primary contractor Sterling and Wilson, who contracts Davis Contracting - it is Sterling and Wilson and Davis Contracting who are alleged to be engaged in a contractual disagreement.

The mass sacking happened two weeks ago on Monday, February 8, and Electrical Trades Union Southwest Queensland organiser Dan McGaw said there has been no progress on the 120MW solar project since.

"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.

Mr McGaw said the union had been working with Sterling and Wilson to resolve any issues and retain the workers' jobs.

"We had a meeting with Sterling and Wilson on Tuesday (February 16), we will continue to work closely with them and hopefully come to a resolute soon to get them back to work," he said.

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Speaking to the Chinchilla News the day after the mass sacking, Mr McGaw said it was a disgraceful act.

"The workers weren't given any notice, every single worker on the job is employed on a casual basis," he said.

"Big business like Wilson have exploited the loophole in the fair work legislation … where they can let workers go at a whim, they don't care how the workers are treated, it's all about getting the biggest bang for their buck."

Only 13 per cent of the contract work had been completed, putting pressure on the project's completion date of 2021.

The Chinchilla News asked Shell QGC on February 11, if the project had been delayed as a result of the contract dispute.

A Shell QGC spokeswoman said, "work on the project remains ongoing, and Shell remains committed to the safe delivery of this project, which will generate ongoing benefits to the local community, deliver 120 megawatts of solar electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 300,000 tonnes a year."

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