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LNG workers in Australia approve new labor deal

08.15.2014  | 

Union members working on more than $60 billion in natural gas export projects in Australia for energy companies including ConocoPhillips approved a labor agreement, easing concerns of delays.



Union members working on more than $60 billion in natural gas export projects in Australia for energy companies including ConocoPhillips approved a labor agreement, easing concerns of delays to first production.

About 54% of workers voted for Bechtel's revised offer, according to an e-mailed statement from the San Francisco-based contractor. The agreement included a 13% increase in pay and extra daily allowances.

A dispute with unions in Queensland state has put the schedules of three liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects at risk. BG Group plans to start its export project on Curtis Island later this year, while Santos and ConocoPhillips expect to begin production at their developments in 2015.

“People will breathe a sigh of relief” with a yes vote, Mark Samter, a Sydney-based analyst at Credit Suisse Group, said before the results. “But I don’t think the grievances they feel disappear. You’d have to question what productivity is like at a crucial stage.”

Bechtel said the vote meant everyone could return to their normal work routines. About 3,700 workers voted in favor of the agreement, while about 3,120 voted against it, the contractor said in a separate e-mail.

Fly-In, Fly-Out

The average tradesman working on the island and living locally made an estimated A$200,000 ($187,000) last year, including wages of A$160,000, daily payments and retirement fund contributions, based on figures provided by Bechtel. The average laborer earned A$135,000, according to Bechtel, and would have made about A$175,000 in total compensation.

The contractor wouldn’t agree to union demands to make an immediate reduction in the number of weeks fly-in, fly-out employees work for every week off. The contractor agreed to change the rosters in the future to three weeks on and one week off, from four weeks currently. Doing that at this point in the construction wasn’t negotiable, Bechtel said.

While the workers can’t pursue protected industrial action now, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which started action at the site earlier this month, is considering its options, said Jade Ingham, its assistant secretary in Queensland. “The fight’s not over.”

Working four weeks before getting a week off puts “enormous pressure” on families, the union said last month.

“There is no doubt the actions of the CFMEU and others over the past week have caused some disruptions for our employees coming to and from work, some interruptions to work on the projects and concern and frustration in the community,” said Kevin Berg, Bechtel general manager in Gladstone, Queensland. “But our employees have had their say.”

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Dinesh Singh

The current labour union is making a difficult ground for their next generation to bloom.

Tony Rangus

Can you spell rip-off!! Four weeks on, and only one week off as well as A$135,000 base salary exclusive of other "daily payments & retirement funds" for a common laborer, not a skilled tradesmen, what a union scam. All I can say is that when the LNG construction boom fades in 2-4 years, comeuppence will be there, and all those overpaid folks will go on the dole.


I worked for LNG baseload plant EPC contractor in Middle East, Africa, and Australia. Australian productivity is in the gutter when compared to previous two. Australian welders can’t compete against the Asian (Filipino and Malay’s), where the real LNG plant is built, as everything is modularized and shipped to Australia.
These Aussie prim donna's make six figure (AUD150 to 200k) salary and get 4/1 rotation. Still every day complain about how hard and unsafe it is work on the island, while smoking their AUD24 a pack cigarettes. Good luck getting that in Africa, Middle East, or South East Asia.
And you know who is to blame for this monstrosity ultimately? Dumbass Americans! We consume the most energy in the world. That money goes into the coffers of the oil companies. Those oil companies (Chevron, Exxon, etc) spend that money on these frivolous MULTI-billion dollar project overseas.
BTW I get it, all of the LNG from the Australian projects will be sold to Japan or Korea.
Thank god Apache saw the light and bailed out of the Australian wormhole.

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