By JAMES PATON
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) project
s 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 dont think
the grievances they feel disappear. Youd 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.
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 wouldnt 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
negotiable, Bechtel said.
While the workers cant 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 fights not
Working four weeks before getting a week off puts
enormous pressure on families, the union said
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 project
s and concern and
frustration in the community, said Kevin Berg, Bechtel
general manager in Gladstone, Queensland. But our
employees have had their say.