International speakers highlighted concerns about the safety of Chevron operations at a public meeting attended by over 300 people in Perth, Western Australia this week.
The forum, hosted by the Maritime Union of Australia (WA Branch) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, featured Mike Smith, a union official from the United Steelworkers’ Union Local 5 in Richmond California who travelled to Perth to address the meeting in person. The Chevron facility in Richmond California is the location of a major explosion that saw 15,000 people sent to hospital two years ago.
Mike is a former operator and OHS representative at the refinery in Richmond spoke about his union’s experiences of Chevron’s commitment to the safety of their workforce and the local community. When asked by a member of the audience if he felt that, based on his experiences, the Australian community should trust Chevron to operate safely on Barrow Island, an A class nature reserve, Mike answered “no”.
The meeting also featured a video link to Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond California who outlined why the people of Richmond do not trust Chevron and see them as putting profit ahead of worker and community safety. Gayle talked about Chevron’s propaganda campaign including setting up their own newspaper and their involvement in local politics. Gayle estimated that Chevron would spend $2 million to get Chevron friendly candidates elected at the upcoming Richmond council elections.
MUAWA Secretary Christy Cain said that West Australians need to understand the lessons from the Richmond plant, especially as Chevron seeks to bring its Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG plants online over the next few years.
“With Gorgon being built on a A-Class nature reserve, and Wheatstone being built close to onshore communities, it is vitally important that all Western Australians have an understanding of Chevron’s safety record,” Cain said.
During his visit to Perth Mike Smith also discussed his concerns about Chevron’s commitment to safety at the Richmond plant with:
- Scott Ludlum, Greens Senator
- Hon Kate Doust MLC the (WA state) Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, and Bill Johnston the (WA state) Shadow Minister for State Development & Energy
- Meredith Hammet, Secretary of the WA Trades and Labor Council
- Steve Price, State Secretary, Australian Workers Union
- Mick Buchan, State Secretary of the Construction Union (CFMEU)
- Steve McCartney, State Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
At the conclusion of the meeting the MUA and International Transport workers Federation committed to stand in solidarity with United Steelworkers Local 5 and the community of Richmond California.
The following is a video of Mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin, speaking about Chevron that was aired at the meeting.