WITH the steady hum of chatter and plenty of handshakes and old jokes going round at the QAL Rio Tinto Retiree Luncheon yesterday, it was easy to see why Ross Maudsley had a good time working at the plant.

For the 193 former QAL employees attending the luncheon it seemed just like old times. There was lots of ribbing and low-balling about who did what and worked the hardest.

Clearly the divide between those who worked in the office, as opposed to the field, has been an age-old point of contention.

Ross - who is the president of the QAL Retiree Association and started work at QAL in 1977 - said the laid-back "QAL culture" was based on "mates looking after mates".

"Whether it was through the mentoring system or safety and the general running of the place, we all looked after each other," he said.

Ross was the laboratory supervisor at QAL and retired in 2010 after more than 30 years' of service.

He said the luncheon was all about reconnecting and catching up with old mates but joked that most probably only turned up for the food.

"I've got a few stories about working at QAL that you definitely can't print but some of us were pretty good practical jokers," Ross said.

We now understand that water fights or filling a workmate's boots up with water was generally well received.

On a serious note, however, Ross said he loved working at QAL for more than 30 years because of the "good workmates and the good company".

"QAL was important for Gladstone and the place was full of good people. It provided security for my family and allowed me to raise four children," he said.

"QAL was very family orientated and gave good benefits to us. It was good to have a permanent job and get paid every week for your work."

Ross said his first memory of working at QAL was of how big the plant was.

"It was just the magnitude of the place with all the pipes going everywhere," he said.

But for him the biggest change over the years was when the whole plant switched over to computers.

"In the lab we dropped down in numbers after that," he said.

Ross was happy with the turnout for the luncheon and said it had been a good process organising the event.

"I like getting involved with the community and this luncheon is up to us to organise now," he said.

"It's a tough job but someone has to do it."

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