FWC sets intractable bargaining declaration hearing for September 22

Gas giant Chevron has bagged its wish for an expedited hearing into the enterprise bargaining dispute with worker threatening its West Australian operations.

The Fair Work Commission on Tuesday booked in a full-bench assessment with Chevron and the Australian Workers Union and Electrical Trades Union for bargaining declarations on September 22.

The company’s massive Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG plants are edging towards sustained disruption with Offshore Alliance workers pursuing industrial action from last week and two weeks of 24-hour work stoppages expected to commence on Thursday.

The plants supply about 7 per cent of the world’s LNG and the dispute has sent jitters through energy markets, with European benchmark prices spiking 13 per cent with the beginning of strikes last Friday.

Gorgon and Wheatstone also supply about 47 per cent of WA’s domestic gas.

Camera IconChevron Wheatstone platform. Credit: Supplied

A declaration, a new provision of industrial law introduced by federal Labor, pushes conflicting parties to renegotiation with the threat of the FWC stepping in the impose its will on parties if an agreement cannot be struck.

Chevron wants a declaration to act as a circuit-breaker in its contest with Offshore Alliance, which includes the AWU and which has rolled on for months.

The union is pushing for more consultation on roster changes, more transparency around the classification of roles at the plants and greater protections from labour hire companies, while Chevron argues the union wants terms “significantly above” market conditions.

FWC President Justice Adam Hatcher set the next hearing in the Chevron-Offshore Alliance dispute for September 22. Supplied
Camera IconFWC President Justice Adam Hatcher set the next hearing in the Chevron-Offshore Alliance dispute for September 22. Supplied Credit: Supplied

It is understood platform workers earn between $230,000 to $370,000 a year, including base salary, allowances and superannuation, and work no more than 26 weeks a year.

Lawyer Zach Duncalfe, representing the AWU at the hearing, expressed opposition to Chevron’s move, arguing the two parties had made progress towards an agreement.

“There are questions to be asked around the genuine nature of the application, whether or not Chevron is just seeking to defeat current protected industrial action,” he said.

He also argued the September 22 date was too soon to for the union to adequately respond to the company’s submissions.

But FWC President Justice Adam Hatcher said the potential impact of the dispute on world energy markets and Australian consumers demanded a swift hearing.

Justice Hatcher also ruled the three applications, which cover the Wheatstone platform, downstream and Gorgon operations, should be heard together.

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