Farstad stoppage to commence Tuesday

Almost 300 maritime workers will stop work tomorrow in support of local jobs, fair wages and family-friendly rosters.

The protected industrial action will affect 25 vessels operated by Farstad, one of the 22 companies servicing the offshore oil and gas industry, including Chevron’s Wheatstone project.

The action was sanctioned by the Fair Work Commission, following almost unanimous support in a secret ballot of members conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission.  It will proceed, despite a last-ditch effort by Farstad to prevent the stoppage going ahead.

The WA Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) gave marine contractor Farstad ten days notice of four consecutive 24-hour stoppages, to commence 4am Saturday 15th November.  As a result of an application by Farstad’s legal team, the Fair Work Commission (“the Commission”) issued interim orders on Friday, suspending the action until the matter could be heard yesterday.

Following yesterday’s hearing, the Commission found in favour of the MUA, permitting one 24-hour stoppage under the current approval, to start from 4am tomorrow.

The MUA has been in EBA negotiations with Farstad for over 18 months.

The previous EBA expired in June 2013, and MUA members received their last pay increase in July 2012.

In an attempt to reach agreement, the MUA has advised Farstad that it is willing to accept a pay increase of 13.5 per cent over four years, just above the rate of inflation.

MUA WA Branch Assistant Secretary Will Tracey said the major sticking point was the union’s demand for more family friendly rosters.

“Maritime workers at Farstad are currently away from home for five weeks at a time, putting severe pressure on their families and their own mental health,” Mr Tracey said.

“Tragically, over the last 18 months, we have had at least four suicides in the offshore industry, and our union is determined to do something about it.

“Farstad refuses to change the current roster from five-weeks on, five off, to the more family-friendly roster of four-weeks on, four off.

“While we have been happy to negotiate over wages, the mental health of our members is not something we are willing to negotiate over.”

Mr Tracey said the union remained committed to ensuring Farstad used fully qualified and trained local crews, with higher rates of permanency.