Mum scared for husband as Smelter moves to sack workers

BOYNE Smelter Limited workers will be forced to wait up to two weeks to learn if they will keep their jobs.

A woman, whose partner works for BSL, has shed some light on the anguish and fear felt by 1150 workers and their families.

Boyne Smelters Limited fourth carbon bake furnace, CBF4 is commissioning their new furnace. Photo Christopher Chan/The Observer
Boyne Smelters Limited fourth carbon bake furnace, CBF4 is commissioning their new furnace. Photo Christopher Chan/The Observer Chris Chan

On Thursday workers at BSL learned jobs will be lost after the Rio Tinto-owned site moved to cut production by 81,000 tonnes a year.

The woman, who requested to be anonymous to protect her partner's job, said they were "surprised and shocked".

INITIAL | 'Soul destroying': Workers will be axed at Boyne Smelter

The mother of three learned about the job losses via Facebook because her partner was on a "day off" when it was announced.

"Seeing it on Facebook rather than being notified, that was hard," she said. "It was a bit of a shock," she said.

"We're trying to stay as positive as possible though."

Boyne Smelter Limited announced in January it was struggling to make a deal to replace its position on the spot market for 15% of its electricity.

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More than 40 days on site general manager Joe Rea announced they could not agree on a "competitive" price with the state's electricity generators.

The site, which will no longer be Australia's largest aluminium smelter, made $US12 million profit after tax in 2016, more than half of the $US40 million it made the year prior according to Rio Tinto's full year results released last week.

Already discussions have started for voluntary redundancies and the Gladstone mum said she's hopeful her partner won't be shown the door.

The timing of the job losses comes at a time when the number of people in Gladstone receiving Newstart Allowances, or the dole, in January reached its highest in 12 months.

Site general manager Joe Rea talks to media last week:

The most recent Labour Market Statistics revealed 2442 people were out of work in Gladstone and receiving government financial assistance, a rise from 2303 in December and 2168 in November.

BSL general manager Joe Rea is meeting with 50 employees this week to explore ways the smelter could minimise the job losses with its cost-cutting measures.

"We are working hard to have the organisational structure finalised within two weeks to minimise this period of uncertainty," a BSL spokesperson said,

While BSL hasn't confirmed the number of jobs that could be lost, it's been estimated it could be more than 100.

"We will work with our team here to make sure we go through this process with dignity and respect with our workers," Joe Rea said last week.

NOTE: The spot market price has risen from about $77 late last year to $14,000. It a major cause of the job cuts. 

The Boyne Smelter Limited receives 85% of its electricity from the Gladstone Power Station as part of a purchase agreement locked in until 2029.

Since late 2015, BSL has purchased the remaining 15% of electricity, about 140-150MWh, via the spot market.

TIMELINE | SEE HOW BOYNE SMELTER'S POWER CRISIS HAS UNFOLDED



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