Future unclear for Palmer refinery workers

By Rebekah Ison
AAP

Hundreds of workers at Clive Palmer's embattled Yabulu Refinery have been sacked and don't know if they will be rehired.

Days after Clive Palmer took back control of the nickel operation, administrators FTI Consulting confirmed most of the 550 employees would have their jobs terminated from 5pm Friday.

It's not known how many, if any, will be re-employed by the refinery's new manager, Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd - which is run by Mr Palmer and controlled by two of his entities.

"At this time the administrators are uncertain as to the status of future employment offers," FTI Consulting said on Thursday.

"Terminations of employment and uncertainty regarding the new offers is a deeply regrettable situation."

Queensland Nickel Sales PTY LTD replaced Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd as the refinery's manager on Monday, after Mr Palmer secured $23 million.

But it can't run the refinery without an environmental authority being transferred.

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles said the administrators had endorsed the move but the new company still needs to be cleared as a suitable operator.

He slammed the businessman-turned-politician for making the application on Wednesday, days after the new company took control.

"It is astonishing that Clive Palmer, an experienced businessman, only chose to act on this yesterday," he said.

"I've asked Environment and Heritage Protection to ensure the application assessment for Queensland Nickel Sales is done as swiftly as possible with the appropriate checks and balances."

Workers were told of the terminations in afternoon meetings, which came after 100 employees met with officials from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

AMWU Queensland Secretary Rohan Webb said the workers had been put through a "whirlwind of uncertainty and hurt".

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said Mr Palmer had not fully explained the impact of the refinery restructure on workers and called on him to come clean.

He also said the Turnbull government should give workers access to its Fair Entitlements Guarantee, which only usually applies to businesses in liquidation.

The Palaszczuk government has previously promised to fast-track $210 million-worth of projects to drive job growth in the Townsville area.

Federal employment minister Michaelia Cash announced an extra $1.9 million towards helping sacked workers find jobs.

The funding is in addition to $500,000 announced after the refinery went into voluntary administration in January.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who will visit Townsville on Friday, labelled the sacking announcement appalling.

The refinery has been shut due to issues importing ore stock.

Queensland Nickel diesel fitter Dale Collins says workers had left the refinery wondering about their future.

"Our only option now is to pick up the pieces and try to rebuild our lives in the wake of all this mess," he said.

Mr Palmer has been contacted for comment.