17/09/2008 - 22:00

Ageing workforce an ongoing issue

17/09/2008 - 22:00

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PUNISHING work schedules and unrealistic timeframes are pressuring oil and gas companies to hire inexperienced workers, the oil and gas forum has heard.

Ageing workforce an ongoing issue

PUNISHING work schedules and unrealistic timeframes are pressuring oil and gas companies to hire inexperienced workers, the oil and gas forum has heard.

And a massive age gap in the industry is creating a culture where trainees are fast-tracked to supervisory roles in an attempt to cope with the skilled labour shortage.

"I think there's a huge gap between the age of 40 and 25," vice-president of facilities and engineering at Technip Oceania, Nick Palmer, said.

"There are quite a few graduates but they come in and then disappear around the world.

"One of the good things about Perth is you can get some good early conceptual work done because there are a lot of people who have been around 20 or 30 years in the industry, but there aren't so many younger people to get the actual work done.

"We've had enormous issues trying to give pay rises to people in Australia to try to keep them."

Mermaid Marine Australia Ltd managing director Jeff Weber called it the "black hole" of Perth.

"Young people from here go overseas and never come back out again," he said.

With recent statistics showing that WA is facing the highest number of workplace deaths in almost 14 years - 27 in the past financial year - the Australian Workers' Union has aired concerns and blames 457 visas, a scheme to remedy WA's skills shortage.

The AWU said 457 visas had added to onsite safety pressures because many non-English speaking workers had to learn safety standards on the job.

Neptune Marine managing director Christian Lange questioned the benefits of using foreign labour, blaming what he called a "socialist" Perth culture for the demise of the state's traditional work ethic.

"It would be really interesting to look at a study of all the large assets that are constructed in Asia and how much retro-fitting has to take place in Australia when it gets here to comply," he told the forum.

"Someone needs to do the homework because we spend half of our fabricating time mopping up from work that is done there.

"Show me something that has come down here and not needed serious work on it to comply.

"Perth has a culture where everybody is interested in making a pile of money doing the least work possible.

"I've spent most of my 20 years in the industry outside of Australia and coming back to Perth I find that it's such a socialist culture.

"That creates its own set of problems and challenges, such as people wanting a nine-day fortnight and all these things which are anti-productivity, so to speak.

"It's not just a union issue, it's a cultural platform here in Perth which is, well socialist is probably too strong a word, but our attitude towards work is different from in the US, in Aberdeen or up in Asia."

Richard Clark, general manager of AMC Management (WA) in Henderson, said the age gap was caused by a shift in the industry towards utilising contractors.

"I think the boom and bust has done that, it has destroyed the calm in the workforce," he said.

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