MUA Offshore Update - July 2017

Update on agreements, disputes and upcoming work in the offshore. 


As previously mentioned the MUA had a resounding win in Fair Work against the notified forced redundancies by Farstad of 85 MUA members. The notice to force MUA members out of Farstad came after MUA members voted down the Farstad’ non-union agreement. As anticipated in previous updates we were of the view Farstad, on advice from AMMA, would appeal that decision and this is exactly what happened. 

We can now report that since the last update the MUA was successful in the legal defence of Farstad’s appeal against the MUA win in the initial Farstad redundancy case. The appeal was heard before the Full Bench of Fair Work and came down in favour of the MUA specifying that Farstad should have further discussions with the Union.

 Those discussions are taking place this week.

This is an excellent result for our members because the Union has so far succeeded in its campaign to prevent any forced redundancies at Farstad. This comes after a 4-month legal battle, kicked off when Farstad notified that they wanted to force 85 redundancies on our members.  

This case again represents the ruthless pursuit by this union to support our members working in the offshore.


Further to the previous offshore update we can now report that more offshore companies are moving to sign up to the MUA “Job Security” enterprise agreement. As we have indicated in earlier updates, over the previous 8 months the MUA has been working hard to close out the offshore agreements and lock in the “Job Security” provisions we have been campaigning so hard for over the last 5 years in the offshore oil and gas industry.  

All done under the sustained attacks on our jobs by the Federal Liberal Government, the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) and various employers who sought to assist in the attack by putting out non-union agreements.

 Our membership in the offshore have seen:

  • 11 non-union agreements thrown at them, all voted down.
  • 3 CUB type agreements voted up by small groups of workers that we knocked off after industrial and legal campaigns running all the way through to the Full Bench of Fair Work;
  • 2 Federal Court challenges (one a Full Bench Appeal) and 2 High Court challenges to prevent the Federal Government from removing our right to work in the offshore 

The MUA now has “Job Security” offshore agreements with the following offshore operators: 

  • Farstad
  • Programmed
  • AOS
  • OSM
  • DOF
  • ESS
  • Mermaid Marine
  • Go Offshore
  • Fugro
  • Morgan Marine
  • Rigforce 

Each of these company specific standalone agreements requires a heap of time and resources as we have had to negotiate separately with each individual employer and the respective company delegates over many months with a heap of those meetings being facilitated inside Fair Work. The resources and time taken to land a final agreement with each company is no surprise to the many officials and delegates who have been involved in negotiating collective agreements from time to time. 

We can also report that we are in active ongoing discussions with another 13 offshore companies which are at various stages of negotiations - all of which look like landing an MUA “Job Security” offshore agreement in the next month or so. 

Unfortunately discussions with the following offshore operators have not occurred, been refused or were very hostile to the extent that an agreement looks unlikely in the next few months: 

  • Maersk
  • Swires
  • Solstad 

The most critical outcome of the above situation and significant work that has gone into the offshore EA campaign over the last 5 years, and especially the last 12 months since the MUA High Court win last August, is that over 85% of the offshore has, or will have in the very near future, an MUA “Job Security” Enterprise Agreement. 

When you look at the vicious attacks on many of the industries in this country by this government, various employer associations and the many employers who actively engage in the wholesale removal of Australian jobs and decimation of wages and conditions of those that are left, the results we’ve achieved in the offshore are substantial. We have fought a five-year war of attrition for our industry against the most well organised and resourced right-wing ideologues in this country and won. This alone speaks volumes to the capacity and willingness of this Union to fight in the best interests of its members. United we stand! 


After feedback and recent reports from some of the offshore vessels, we can advise that we are finally starting to see some early activity on the Inpex project and various other project work off our coast.  

After significant delays which have seen the ramp up of this project put back by many months we are now seeing some movement in members off the database. 

While we are still waiting for the larger key vessels to come onto the project, and the critical parts of the job begin, some of the signs in the last month have been very encouraging. Especially after the disappointing news in April and May of delays to the start-up of the major marine spread component of the project.  

Every official in the country has been working tirelessly to address the current work crisis our industry has faced for a number of years now.  



In October 2016, the government introduced legislation to reform Seacare, and harmonise applicable WHS law, in a way detrimental to the interests of our members. The below is a simple summary of a long set of complex proposals.

The MUA had serious concerns with the proposed legislation, key issues being:

  • Pushing vessels out of Seacare coverage and forcing them onto inferior state workers’ comp scheme. If you work and live in different states, you’d be forced to find lawyers and doctors in the state of injury not your home state, and travel for appointments, hearings etc. as well as dealing with the complex nature of being from say NSW and getting injured off the NT coast working for a WA based employer throwing all sorts of hurdles at employers and insurers cresting possibilities to avoid their responsibilities when seafarers can least afford it
  • Making initial dispute resolution process optional for insurers and employers, allowing them to drag out claims, delaying recovery/return to sea for injured workers
  • Harmonising the WHS Act in a way that pushed more vessels onto possibly inferior state safety legislation, compo and safety inspectorates, instead of Commonwealth WHS and Seacare
  • Abolishment of the Seacare Authority
  • Cutting out unions as a stakeholder representing and protect their members
  • Disproportionate impact on offshore workers the most. 73% of MUA members with accepted Seacare claims are IRs or caterers in the offshore.  

Basically, the government was trying to cut costs and eradicate Seacare. They completely ignored problems that exist with insurers and employers delaying and frustrating claims, and instead tried to create a problem with vessel coverage. 

As soon as the reform Bill was announced, we immediately began thoroughly reviewing them and seeking and developing expert advice from the MUA legal team and David Trainor of McNallys, who has some 30 years’ experience with Seacare. We also widely surveyed our members so we could provide (confidentially) firsthand experiences and difficulties accessing compensation.

We were the only union to give case study examples to the government. By facilitating assistance of the ACTU, we lead discussions with other maritime unions to ensure a coordinated position and approach was achieved. This all led to making a lengthy submission to the government in December 2016, in which we outlined our concerns and the major flaws with their proposals. This was then followed with many regular and ongoing meetings and discussions with the Department of Employment to push our opposition to the unfair and unacceptable Bill. Lobbying also occurred at many levels through Government departments and with various politicians building consensus behind our proposals and submissions.

In the last month, we have had confirmation the government has abandoned their previous proposals and adopted most of the MUA’s recommendations from our December 2016 submission.

There are still some issues which will require us to remain vigilant and scrutinise their next steps, but all-in-all this is a huge win that can be attributed to our strategic and thorough response.

We are continuing to raise the issue of insurers and employers forcing members to go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which unnecessarily drags out their applications. If members are currently in this situation, we ask you to contact so we can discuss this with you and collect case studies.



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Will Tracey

Deputy National Secretary

Maritime Union of Australia