The full-blown strike at Chevron’s Wheatstone and Gorgon liquefied natural gas facilities in Australia looks to be going ahead on Thursday after the US supermajor failed to reach agreement with unions.
Chevron on Monday filed applications to Australia's Fair Work Commission for so-called intractable bargaining declarations (IBD) for its Gorgon and Wheatstone downstream facilities, having filed a similar application last week for its Wheatstone offshore platform.
The labour dispute will now be heard at an industrial relations tribunal on 22 September that could potentially resolve the matter before the full fortnight of stoppages plays out.
“Chevron, the industrial anarchists are trying to reinvent their industrial relations narrative by making application to the FWC to cancel our Protected Industrial Action (PIA) and having the FWC arbitrate our EBA (enterprise bargaining agreement),” said the Offshore Alliance on its Facebook page.
“The Offshore Alliance are opposing Chevron’s IBD application and want PIA to continue until we secure a union negotiated EBA.”
Protected Industrial Action began on 8 September at the 15.6 million tonnes per annum Gorgon and 8.9 million tpa Wheatstone LNG projects, which together account for around 6% of global supply.
Chevron on Monday reportedly said that it no longer expects to reach a deal with unions and instead is banking on a ruling from Australia’s Fair Work Commission to cancel strike action and force a deal.
At a scheduling hearing with both parties on Tuesday, the Commission set 22 September for the substantive hearings, the office of President Hatcher told Reuters.
At this stage there will only be a single hearing, however the office could not specify how long it would take the tribunal to decide.
"The act requires the commission to act as soon as practical, so timeframes are quite tight," the office was quoted as saying.
Local media noted this would be a landmark test of the enhanced legislation, introduced just three months ago, which empowers the Commission to force parties into an agreement that they cannot resolve by themselves.
Unions had argued for a later hearing date in November, the office added.
Upstream has approached Chevron for comment on the latest twist in the pay and conditions dispute with unionised workers at its Australian LNG projects.
'Kicking and screaming'
“For the last 30 years, Chevron have bucked the industrial relations system in Australia, [spending] three decades avoiding bargaining with their operations workforce by forcing employees onto minimalist individual contracts,” added the OA.
“The Chevron employment contracts were drafted by Chevron’s lawyers and HR bosses and offered employees few employment rights. When the union first asked Chevron to bargain for an EBA, they refused to bargain, and the Offshore Alliance had to drag them kicking and screaming to the FWC.”
The Offshore Alliance combines the Australian Workers Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, the members of which work on the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG project facilities.