MUA Defends Offshore Workers' Claims

Following media coverage today of the protected industrial action on the North West shelf the MUA's national secretary Paddy Crumlin makes the following statement.

 "There is no question industrial action in the north west oil and gas sector is a focus at the moment. It was inevitable at the start of the massive expansion in activity and comes when several EBAs are being negotiated.

"The decision by the workers at Total Marine Services to string two 48 hour stoppages together came after they were going nowhere in negotiations with the company.

"At the centre of the TMS dispute - similar to what is being negotiated in separate EBA action at Farstad and Go Marine (where the protected industrial ballot has just been launched ) -  is an allowance for construction work, which will give maritime workers who perform exactly the same task, as say riggers, pay parity. This is a reasonable claim which shippers acknowledge they have known was on the way due to the enormous wage growth in this sector since we last negotiated a wage outcome nearly four years ago.  

"For politicians to question our workers claims on the basis that they already receive "twice the average wage for only six months of the year" is misleading and offensive. All workers in this construction industry receive these entitlements.

"Workers on offshore duty are asked to work long hours in dangerous and demanding conditions mostly in all sorts of weather including cyclones at this time of year. They are at sea, in close confines, away from their wives and children, for weeks on end. The recent explosive fire on the Montara rig again demonstrated the inherent risks of offshore employment.

"When they are on a ship these workers work 12 hours day, 7 days a week through Christmas day and other public holidays for as long as it takes.   

"There is no reason why a skilled maritime worker - working in the offshore sector - should not earn the same as other workers there doing the same job, and it is immature for the employers to run a campaign that they shouldn't receive equal or close to equal pay for their work with everyone else out there.

"If you think the comparison's relevant then you may have a bigger problem with the fact the CEOs of the oil and gas corporations take home  $6 million and more - 100 times the average wage, or even a liberal party parliamentarian whose only danger on the job is a stab in the back from a colleague.

"These issues will ultimately be determined in genuine negotiation. The latest discussion we have had with Farstad management has been encouraging. In good faith we have ruled out any industrial action with the company before a meeting on January 5.

"You've got to remember that the offshore oil and gas industry has failed to include workforce planning in its long term investment planning. Companies are competing for scarce labour at many skills levels and ratcheting up the price. There's been a lack of attention to both training and competitive industrial relations practices in the industry and Mines and Metals are now running around hysterically in an attempt to mask their idleness and neglect in these matters.