Nyrstar apologises after Facebook backlash to ‘lads and blokes’ videos for Port Pirie smelter jobs

The operator of one of the world’s largest lead smelters has apologised for apprentice recruitment videos that refer to lads and blokes and depict only white men.

One video opened by stating the company was “looking for that guy” for its 2021 program before listing qualities it looked for in apprentices.

Nyrstar, which run Australia’s largest lead smelter in the regional South Australian city of Port Pirie, apologised and said the videos had been shot in previous years.

After receiving multiple complaints on a Facebook callout for new applicants featuring the video, the company removed it, promising to shoot a new, more inclusive campaign. 

Videos the company had posted in past years to promote specific apprenticeships, like electrical and boiler making programs, referred to apprentices as “lads”, “blokes” and used pronouns like “he” and “him”.

‘Discouraging female applicants’

Port Pirie local Jade said she was shocked when she saw the video.

“My brain literally went, ‘Looking for that guy who?’,” said Jade, who did not want her full name published.

She contacted the company and posted the video to her personal Facebook page, questioning its language and message.

‘We sincerely apologise’

Nyrstar, a global mining and metals business, initially asked Jade to remove her post, saying it could discourage applicants, but later apologised and vowed to re-shoot the campaign.

“You raise a valid point and we sincerely apologise,” a spokesperson said.

“We are taking the video down.

“We are an equal opportunity employer and do welcome applications.”

Nyrstar told the ABC female apprentices were part of its current program and comprised a “large part” of its workforce.

A separate video posted on the company’s Facebook page in January featured both women and people from a variety of cultural backgrounds while promoting Nyrstar as an employer.

Unconscious bias

Tradeswomen Australia Executive Director Fiona McDonald said it was important companies identified their unconscious bias.

“Often jobs within trades aren’t promoted and sometimes it’s word of mouth and that’s how people get jobs.”

She said language around recruitment was a key part of encouraging more women to participate in trades and adjustments had led to positive results.