Unionised workers have called off strike action at Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas facilities in Australia, ending a standoff that threatened about 6% of global LNG supply.
On Friday, the Offshore Alliance (OA), which represents the Australian Workers’ Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, said it had accepted new employment agreements proposed by Australia’s Fair Work Commission after US supermajor Chevron called on the FWC to help mediate the pay and conditions dispute.
The proposed deals now “contain substantial improvements in terms and conditions of employment, including increased remuneration, job security, locked-in rosters [and] career progression,” the OA said.
The deal includes allowances for remote working of A$103,000 (US$66,180) a year for workers on the offshore Wheatstone gas platform and A$85,000 a year for those at the onshore LNG plants at Wheatstone and Gorgon, according to the Australian Financial Review.
The OA had been pushing Chevron to match pay terms agreed by Woodside Energy in its recent deal with the unions, which set total annual remuneration for offshore platform technicians at between A$350,233 at entry level and A$418,337 at the highest level, according to figures submitted by the union to the commission, Reuters reported.
Unionised workers had threatened to down tools at the 15.6 million tonnes per annum Gorgon LNG project; Wheatstone, which has nameplate capacity of 8.9 million tpa; and the Woodside-operated, 16.9 million tpa North West Shelf LNG project.
Woodside earlier averted industrial action by reaching agreement with the AWU, the Electrical Trades Union and others on an enterprise agreement covering employees on its NWS offshore platforms.
However, Chevron on its own was unable to agree terms with the OA and strike action had been scheduled to start on Friday at the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG facilities.
On Thursday, the FWC spelled out recommendations including increased overtime pay in some cases, a travel allowance for training and tighter regulation of working hours.
Also, Chevron and the unions outlined plans to set up a workplace committee that will meet quarterly to discuss salary matters, according to the commission.
The OA’s statement that its members would soon stop the current industrial action came after more than 350 workers from three facilities — Gorgon, the Wheatstone platform and Wheatstone downstream — met on Thursday evening to consider the recommendation put forth by FWC Commissioner Bernie Riordan.
“Commissioner Riordan’s recommendation contains substantial improvements in terms and conditions of employment, including increased remuneration, job security, locked-in rosters, career progression and returning all employees to a 40% roster,” Offshore Alliance spokesman Brad Gandy said.
“The Offshore Alliance will now work with Chevron to finalise the drafting of the agreement and members will soon cease current industrial action.”
A Chevron Australia spokesperson said it was pleased to confirm the company, the AWU and the Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) have accepted the recommendation of the FWC and are working to finalise Enterprise Agreements for the Gorgon and Wheatstone gas facilities.
“The recommendation resolves the issues that remained outstanding following conciliation sessions this week,” the Chevron Australia spokesperson said.
“The unions have advised Chevron Australia and the Fair Work Commission that industrial action has been suspended,” they said.
“The applications for Intractable Bargaining Declarations are adjourned to enable the process of finalising drafting of the Agreements to occur before they are voted on by employees and, if voted up, submitted to the Fair Work Commission for approval,” the Chevron Australia spokesperson added.
“We are also pleased to have continued to meet all our commitments to domestic and international customers during this time.”
At a short hearing on Friday morning the FWC adjourned the matter for four weeks while the two parties draft the final terms of the deal.
*Updated with the latest comment from a Chevron Australia spokesperson.