Goodwyn Alpha; Source: Woodside

Woodside irons out deal to ward off strike at Australian gas assets but Chevron still in hot water

Australian energy giant Woodside has reached an in-principle agreement with the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), the Electrical Trades Union, and other bargaining representatives on an enterprise agreement (EA) covering 150 employees on its North West Shelf offshore platforms, in a bid to avert industrial action. On the other hand, the threat of a strike still hangs over Chevron’s head as no such agreement is in place.

Goodwyn Alpha; Source: Woodside

Woodside explains that the in-principle agreement was reached on all claims relating to remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment, supporting the ongoing provision of a safe and secure energy supply to Western Australian and international gas customers.

According to the company, the next steps will be for the enterprise agreement to be finalised and then voted on by employees and approved by the Fair Work Commission. In the meantime, the unions have committed to not filing a notice of protected industrial action while that process is underway.

While acknowledging the effort from all parties through the bargaining process, Meg O’Neill, Woodside CEO, emphasised: “We will continue to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue with all of our people as we work together to finalise the agreement and maintain safe and reliable supply of energy to our customers.”

The Offshore Alliance, an alliance between the Australian Workers’ Union and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), also confirmed that representatives of over 150 members on Woodside’s offshore platforms – Goodwyn Alpha (GWA), North Rankin Complex (NRC), and Angel – off the coast of Karratha would meet to decide whether to endorse the deal, after a marathon 15-hour meeting at the firm’s offices.

Goodwyn Alpha is an offshore production platform that produces dry gas and condensate. It has been operating since 1995. Located in Commonwealth waters on the NWS of Western Australia, the GWA platform is situated approximately 138 km northwest of Dampier and 23 km southwest of North Rankin Complex.

The Angel platform, which has been operating since 2008, is located in Commonwealth waters in the production licence area WA-3-L and situated approximately 125 km northwest of Karratha in Western Australia. The North West Shelf project’s Joint Venture partners include Woodside, BP Developments Australia, Chevron Australia, Japan Australia LNG (MIMI), and Shell Australia.

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Offshore Alliance spokesperson, Brad Gandy, AWU WA Secretary, believes this deal is a positive sign, as Woodside has reached this point without having protected industrial action and adds: “It’s pleasing that Woodside has made our members a strong offer without industrial action being taken. Offshore Alliance members were at all times prepared to take whatever action necessary to secure an industry-standard enterprise agreement.

“Despite the lengthy road to this point, we are relieved that Woodside has now taken a more pragmatic approach and decided to offer our members an enterprise agreement with industry-standard terms and conditions. Offshore Alliance members working at Woodside will now vote on whether to endorse the agreement and also whether plans to provide Woodside with a notice of industrial action will be withdrawn.”

If the in-principle agreement is endorsed, it will leave Chevron as the sole operator of gas fields in Western Australia without an enterprise agreement with its workforce. Workers at Shell’s LNG facilities secured an EA this time last year after 76 days of protected industrial action while workers at INPEX’s facilities secured a deal with the union earlier in 2022.

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Gandy further underlined: “Protected action ballots of Offshore Alliance members working for Chevron close today, the results of which will give Chevron some insight into how dissatisfied its employees are with negotiations up to this point. We do hope Chevron isn’t going down the same road as Shell who reached an agreement this time last year but only after losing an estimated $1.5 billion in lost production due to 76 days of protected industrial action.

“Offshore Alliance members at Chevron simply want an industry standard enterprise agreement, that gives them say on rosters to ensure they’re family-friendly, job security provisions to prevent them being replaced by low-wage contractors and a transparent classification structure which allows them to progress on objective criteria.”

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Workers at Chevron’s downstream services and Gorgon were expected to return their ballot on 24 August 2023 while those at Wheatstone platform are slated to do so on Monday, 28 August 2023. This will show whether they are prepared to take protected industrial action.

Located on Barrow Island, Gorgon comprises a three-train, 15.6 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) LNG facility and a domestic gas plant with the capacity to supply 300 terajoules of gas per day to Western Australia.

The Wheatstone project is one of Australia’s largest resource developments and its first LNG hub. The project consists of two LNG trains with a combined capacity of 8.9 mtpa, and a domestic gas plant. The first shipment of LNG took place in October 2017.

“Chevron is an insanely profitable company and over $50 billion was made last year exporting Australian gas to the world. We don’t think that it’s outrageous of Offshore Alliance members to seek terms and conditions of employment that are at least on par with other tier-one operators,” concluded Gandy.

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