Local jobs and good conditions

Tari Jeffers and Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
AMWU State secretary Steve McCartney led the protest at the Albemarle site yesterday morning.
Camera IconAMWU State secretary Steve McCartney led the protest at the Albemarle site yesterday morning. Credit: Tari Jeffers

About 100 protesters turned out to the Albemarle lithium plant site in Kemerton yesterday morning in a bid to secure local jobs and working conditions.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Electrical Trades Union and Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union members were joined by South West residents and local businesses at the protest from 7am to raise their concerns.

AMWU State secretary Steve McCartney said the meeting was the first of many to show Albemarle that action would continue to secure real, permanent jobs for locals.

He said it started when the movement and State Government spoke with Albemarle about an agreement for the Kemerton lithium manufacturing plant, which Mr McCartney said was later reneged on.

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“The difficulty we’ve got is that they came out here selling this whole job as being the answer for the whole South West,” Mr McCartney said.

“(But) they’ve come out here to the South West and turn it into Kalgoorlie, where they give you low rates, lots of hours and hope you think you’re a millionaire.”

A spokesman from Albemarle refutes claims that locals are not being employed, saying the refinery would bring economic benefits and activity to the South West.

He said the company could not dictate terms and conditions to its contractors, but was committed to “local content” and compliance with the Australian Jobs Act.

“Early contract awards for the Kemerton Lithium Project have included some of WA’s well-known local construction and fabricating companies,” he said.

“At this time, more than 70 per cent of Albemarle’s current operational workforce is employed from the South West region, and we expect the percentage of local workforce to increase as production begins.”

The spokesman reiterated the company’s stance that up to 500 jobs will be created during the construction phase, with about 500 highly-skilled jobs created once the plant was at full operation.

“We are committed to engaging South West business to ensure our investment in Australia benefits our local communities,” he said.

At the protest, Mr McCartney said some of the truck drivers coming out from and into the Albemarle site were sympathetic, but there was concern about how fast some were driving.

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