Our 25 Year Employees ...
Throughout 2009, there is a large number of Alcoa employees who mark 25 years at both our Wagerup and Willowdale operations. With the two sites’ development prior to 1984, there are some who have been with Alcoa even longer! We salute all our long-serving employees.
No other job comes close …
“A secure job close to home, a safe working environment and a great bunch of work mates” are the reasons Yarloop-born Dennis Tyler has stayed with Alcoa Wagerup for 25 years.
“There’s no other job close to home with similar pay or working conditions where you can choose a career path to better yourself,” Dennis said.
Dennis started at Wagerup on January 11, 1984, as a Trades Assistant in the main workshop and moved through a number of different roles to his current job as an Area Process Controller in the clarification section of the refinery.
“The early days were a learning experience for all of us and not all things went to plan,” Dennis said.
“Work was more demanding and physical but we got the job done; everyone pulled together. There was plenty of overtime available if you wanted it. As technology improved, so did our ability to get the job done. There have been major changes to safety and environmental procedures and awareness, and technology improvements in process and operating systems.”
Dennis now lives in Preston Beach, and his family connection to the local area is as strong as ever.
“My mother (Eva) and grandmother both worked at the Wagerup Post Office and mum turns 93 in April,” Dennis said.
“She’s living at Pam Corker House in Waroona and still talks about Yarloop.”
Dennis plans to continue working at Wagerup refinery and plan for his retirement.
Horses, sheep and more memories …
A horse and rider arriving in the midst of the refinery’s opening ceremony - animals feature in Murray Henderson’s memories of 29 years (Murray worked at Wagerup through the construction before the refinery was open) at the Wagerup refinery, but there have been many, many more.
Murray is a Senior Employee Support Officer, or ‘security guard’ in the old vernacular, and recalls the day a horse and rider turned up in the middle of the high-security refinery opening ceremony on April 11, 1984.
“The security people were already anxious, so when the Premier had arrived and everything had been locked down, you can imagine the dropped jaws and red faces when a young lady ambles into the Grand Opening area – from within the refinery - leading a horse!” recalls Murray.
“Apparently she was riding around Australia and had followed the railway line through the rail gates and up into the refinery. Well she certainly picked the right day to make her entrance!
Murray is well known around Waroona for his volunteer commitment to St John’s ambulance, and it was this link that led him to his job in security with Alcoa during the refinery’s construction in 1980.
During the years that Wagerup was mothballed, Murray stayed on with a skeleton maintenance crew until things cranked back up in 1983-4.
“I’ve seen many changes over the years, but the most significant would be the introduction of women to the workforce,” said Murray.
“I believe that our group accepted this change very well and made them welcome to come on board and join our team.”
After 29 years, Murray said that the people and the good conditions and are the best things about working for Alcoa.
“Good money, good conditions, good hours, good people”
While the money, conditions, hours and people are good, for Terry Wilson, the increase in the use of computers has been one of the biggest, and most constant, changes in his 25 years at Alcoa’s Wagerup refinery.
“We only used them for process issues in the early days but now they form a large part of our working day,” Terry said.
“Email, mobile phones, etc., have made it easier to communicate but I don’t see it has improved actual communication very much. We still have trouble telling people what we require and when we require it and it is still misinterpreted like it used to be!”
Terry said that a couple of personal work highlights for him were getting the 50J hydrate storage system to run properly and clearing long term blocked alumina train loading chutes. “Both of those achievements were pretty special,” he said.
“The best part about working for Alcoa is that my job is varied and challenging, the people are great and my family is secure,” he said.
“Good money, good conditions, good hours, good people.
“I’ve seen young men grow into middle and old age and I’ve seen the sons and daughters of my old team mates start work here doing similar work to what we used to do.”
Plumbers, shearers and chippies
Andrew “Benny” Goodman remembers the early years at Wagerup as a time when people from all different backgrounds came together for a common purpose.
“I remember our first coordinator John Lockwood - who’s still here too - taught us all the ropes as most of the crew came from non-refinery backgrounds,” Benny said.
“There were plumbers, shearers, chippies, etc.
“Actually I was with John at the mills the first day we started up. As the first conveyor load of bauxite entered the mill I grabbed one of the first rocks to come up the belt. I put the rock in my change room locker and a few years ago rediscovered it. I keep it with me to this day as a memento.”
Self-described as a “nomadic jack-of-all-trades”, Benny’s current job is an Area Process Specialist in operating centre one at the refinery (the “red end”).
He remembers when he first came to work at Wagerup.
“I was visiting my parents in Yarloop for Christmas in the early 80’s and Wagerup was in the construction phase then. I got a job here on construction when it was still just a hole in the ground. I also worked here doing maintenance when they mothballed the place and then got a job here just before start up in 1983.”
Born in the hills; still working in the hills
Dwellingup-born Tony Vergone has officially worked for Alcoa for 25 years, but his association goes back to 1976.
“I did my apprenticeship at Alcoa’s Del Park and Huntly mining operations from 1976 to 1980, then left in 1982,” said Tony.
“I rejoined in 1984 at Wagerup’s start-up, but have been with the mining group since November 1984.
“When I first moved to Willowdale everybody had a nickname, it took me a few years to work out their real names! All the people I have worked with at Huntly and Willowdale have made it fun for me to come to work and helped me develop in my different roles.”
Tony said that having job security and flexibility in his work were the best things about working for Alcoa. The unique location is also a big factor: “I enjoy my job and the people I work with, and being able to live on the coast less than an hour from Perth and work in a mine site environment is great.”
Although he’s been involved with Alcoa for 33 years, Tony said that he’s not planning to leave anytime soon.
“I’ve still got at least another 10 years left so you will see me around for a while.”
One big happy family
25-year employee Phil Penny remembers the early days at the Willowdale mine as “just one big, happy family.”
“Willowdale is one of those environments where people help people all the time,” said Phil.
“Whether it be with your daily tasks or someone having a difficult time there is always help at hand.”
Phil started his Alcoa career at Wagerup as a refinery operator in raw materials and moved to mining in mid-1987. He initially worked in the workshop and then in production. After six months in the environmental department, he joined security and has been there ever since.
“Alcoa is a secure and stable environment and close to home,” said Phil.
“It balances well with home life and other interests and the company is very supportive of outside interests.”
Outside interests for Phil include camping, fishing, four wheel driving and a long involvement with the Yarloop Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade. He grew up and lived in Yarloop until four years ago, when he moved to Cookernup.
“My daughters have grown up and left home, so Tracey and I get time to do what we want now - although the girls are never far away,” said Phil.
Plans for the future? “Relax,” he said.