Wooside cuts 500 jobs at WA gas plants, Chevron considers cuts
Summary: Woodside Petroleum has cut up to 500 jobs at its Western Australia gas plants in the latest sign of strife for Australia’s energy industry as it grapples with the fallout from coronavirus and plunging oil prices.....
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The LNG giant stood down 500 contractors from its North West Shelf and Pluto LNG plants in Western Australia, unions claimed, although Woodside would not confirm how many workers had been lost and said jobs had not been cut at Pluto.
The move follows Woodside culling several hundred positions last week at its offshore Goodwyn and North Rankin plants.
US energy major Chevron, which operates the giant Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG plants in WA, said it was also considering cuts to contractors at its projects.
“While we aim to minimise the impact of the current pandemic on our operations, we are working through plans to de-mobilise non-essential contractor personnel at our natural gas sites,” a company spokesperson said.
“We do not take these measures lightly and understand the impact this will have on some of our workforce.”
Santos flagged job losses this week after the double-whammy of COVID-19 and the crude crash forced it to delay its growth projects including the Barossa gas development, which underpins new supplies for the Darwin LNG plant.
Inpex has also pulled workers from an offshore drilling rig after a colleague tested positive for COVID-19.
Woodside confirmed it had cut the number of staff at its Karratha facilities, without specifying numbers, in response to the pandemic.
“In order to continue safe and reliable production at Karratha Gas Plant while minimising COVID-19 risks, we have informed our workforce at site of plans to reduce or defer non-essential maintenance and refurbishment works,” a Woodside spokesman said.
“This is a difficult decision to take but these are highly unforeseen circumstances. Business as usual is not an option, and we need to take extraordinary measures to protect the health and safety of our workforce.”
Woodside is working on cost-cutting measures and potential project deferrals in response to the oil price crash as Australian energy producers scramble to lighten their exposure in the event of a prolonged market rout.
The NW Shelf is Australia’s largest LNG facility with annual production of 16.9 million tonnes or nearly a quarter of the nation’s overall gas exports.
The Offshore Alliance, which combines the AWU and MUA unions, said workers should still be paid on a standby basis, describing Woodside’s move as “industrial bastardry”.
Woodside said it would pay workers until the end of their current shift should they be required to step down immediately and hoped to redeploy people in other roles where possible.
Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton said while changes had to be made and pain shared, Woodside’s treatment of its workers was “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,” he said. “Summarily sending hundreds of workers back to the airport without a word of explanation is just a woeful abdication of responsibility during this pandemic crisis.
“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.”
Japanese energy giant Inpex, best known in Australia for its $US45 billion Ichthys LNG plant in Darwin, also said a worker aboard its Maersk Deliverer drilling rig off WA tested positive for COVID-19. All non-essential staff have been transferred from the rig to their homes to start self-isolation as a precaution and production is unaffected. No workers on board the Maersk have shown symptoms of the virus while a response plan is being co-ordinated with health agencies .
Resources Minister Keith Pitt held a phone roundtable with resources companies including Woodside, BHP and Rio Tinto on Tuesday to prepare a “unified response” to COVID-19 .
“It’s critical that resources operations continue and new projects commence as planned wherever possible and we are working with resources companies to ensure they can get workers in and out of remote areas in accordance with health and safety requirements,” Mr Pitt said.