Around 550 workers at MP and businessman Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel refinery look set to lose their jobs tomorrow with the company’s voluntary administrators, FTI Consulting, announcing they have to choice but to let them go after Palmer took control of the business again on Monday.
The MP’s new joint venture business, Queensland Nickel Sales, has yet to offer workers at the refinery new employment contracts.
In January, nearly 240 workers lost their jobs before the administrators were appointed, with Queensland Nickel managing director Clive Mensink saying the business could continue to operate and trade out of administration.
Mensink, Palmer’s nephew, is behind the new venture, Queensland Nickel Sales (QNS), and the sole director.
QNS, a joint venture between two other Palmer businesses, and the businessman declared he this week that he’d saved the Yabulu refinery, near Townsville in north Queensland.
Palmer said he would spend $23 million of his own money on the management takeover to stop the refinery closing.
“The operations were shutting down and I have saved the refinery for a second time,” he said.
But the administrators say that, having lost operational and management control of the refinery, they have no choice but to let go of the workers.
They say they have been pressing QNS for details about the ongoing employment of the workers, but remain “unaware of the terms or timing of those offers”.
Here’s the statement from FTI Consulting announcing the workers would have their employment terminated on Friday afternoon.
On 7 March 2016 the Administrators received notice that Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd will replace Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd as the manager of the operations at the Yabulu Refinery with immediate effect.
The decision to replace Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd as joint venture manager was determined by Mr Clive Mensink as Director of QNI Resources Pty Ltd and QNI Metals Pty Ltd.
As a result the Administrators no longer have operational or management control of the Yabulu Refinery.
Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd, the newly appointed manager of the Refinery, may offer current employees of Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd employment but the Administrators are currently unaware of the terms or timing of those offers.
The Administrators have impressed on Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd the urgency of the situation and the need to quickly resolve the ongoing employment of staff. At this time the Administrators are uncertain as to the status of future employment offers by Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd.
The terminations of employment and uncertainty regarding the new offers is a deeply regrettable situation, although unavoidable given the Administrators no longer have operational control of the Refinery.
In recent months, Palmer has unsuccessfully tried to get the state government to go guarantor on a $30 million loan to keep the refinery open. It slipped into administration over $22 million in debt that includes mainly Aurizon and the ATO, despite the fact that Palmer maintained Queensland Nickel had a strong balance sheets and nearly $2 billion in assets.
After the refinery slipped into VA, reports emerged of the MP’s ongoing involvement in its operations via a Yahoo account under the name Terry Smith.
Palmer bought the refinery from BHP in 2009.