Wheat­stone new year rule anger

Pilbara News - - Pilbara News - Kim Mac­don­ald

Workers on one of Aus­tralia’s big­gest projects are threat­en­ing to take their em­ploy­ers to court to fight for their right to party in Onslow on New Year’s Eve.

Workers on the $45 bil­lion Wheat­stone project are livid 130 of the 200 of them who ap­plied to leave site and cel­e­brate New Year’s Eve in nearby Onslow have been re­fused by a range of em­ploy­ers, in­clud­ing Downer and Bech­tel.

Head con­trac­tor Chevron capped the num­bers in con­sul­ta­tion with lo­cal po­lice and other stake­hold­ers.

Only 300 workers would be al­lowed in town be­fore 9.30pm and 70 al­lowed to stay overnight.

The Elec­tri­cal Trades Union said it would for­mally op­pose the de­ci­sion.

ETU State sec­re­tary Les McLaugh­lan said the 200 workers, who are not ros­tered to work on Jan­uary 1, were ini­tially told any­one who man­aged to se­cure ac­com­mo­da­tion in Onslow would be granted ap­proval to go.

Mr McLaugh­lan said all 200 workers got ho­tel rooms but 130 were de­nied the right to go to Onslow for the night.

He ac­cused the em­ploy­ers of un­der­min­ing morale, claim­ing it was a “slap in the face”.

“The workers are be­ing treated like they are pris­on­ers up there,” he said. “Peo­ple want to go to a pub, or go to the beach. They are grown adults who want to spend new year away from an in­dus­trial work­site.”

Downer spokesman Michael Sharp de­nied that em­ploy­ees were told they would get ap­proval to leave site if they man­aged to se­cure ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Of­fi­cer-in-charge at Onslow po­lice sta­tion Sgt Kevin Jones said the long­stand­ing cap on vis­i­tors from Wheat­stone was partly for safety rea­sons.

There would be only four po­lice of­fi­cers on duty on New Year’s Eve, and the near­est po­lice sta­tion was 300km away.

“The men­tal­ity is that they come in and they drink, and drink, and drink, and drink,” he said.

The num­ber of an­ti­so­cial in­ci­dents had gone down since the num­ber of Wheat­stone vis­i­tors was capped and the limit would not change for New Year’s Eve, Sgt Jones said.

The cap was also to en­sure the fa­cil­i­ties could be en­joyed by lo­cals, with Onslow ho­tels ca­pa­ble of host­ing fewer than 400 of the town’s 800 res­i­dents.

“The fa­cil­i­ties in town be­long to the peo­ple who live here,” Sgt Jones said.

But not all the lo­cals are happy about the de­ci­sion. Post of­fice and gen­eral store duty man­ager Julie Car­roll said the ex­tra tourist dol­lars would be wel­come.

“I would like to see them come into town and spend,” she said. “You’d be crazy as a busi­ness if you didn’t think that. Christ­mas is very quiet so any ex­tra busi­ness would be wel­come.”

Chevron will host an on-site con­cert, in­clud­ing sev­eral well-known Aus­tralian bands, for workers who could not leave.

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