The Maritime Union of Australia has notified marine contractor Tidewater, that it intends to take 48 hours of protected industrial action, commencing on Friday 28th February.
Tidewater is one of 22 companies servicing the offshore oil and gas industry.
The company recently completed a major contract for Chevron’s Gorgon project and has just commenced work on Wheatstone.
The MUA has been in negotiations with Tidewater and the industry body the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) for nearly 18 months, in an effort to reach a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The previous EBA expired in June 2013, with MUA members receiving their last pay increase in July 2012.
Last week, the MUA agreed to the 16.5 per cent over four years wage offer from Tidewater, in an effort to reach an agreement in the national interest. However, Tidewater and AMMA have since withdrawn that wage offer, and refused to meet the MUA’s conditions on the use of local crews and the adoption of more family- friendly rosters.
The MUA’s state Assistant Secretary Will Tracey said the union had been forced into industrial action because Tidewater and AMMA were no longer bargaining in good faith.
“Tidewater and AMMA are on record in the media saying that the industry could only afford a 16.5 per cent pay increase over four years, and that the MUA should act responsibly and accept the offer. Now, when we have agreed to do that, they have shifted the goalposts,” he said.
“Further, both Tidewater and AMMA refuse to make it an obligation of industry to give fully trained local crews first opportunity to work on our offshore projects, before they bring in foreign crews.
“Tidewater and AMMA also refuse to change the current roster from five-weeks on, five off, to the more family-friendly industry standard of four-weeks on, four off. Large parts of the MUA membership already work four-week swings if they are on one of the many offshore construction jobs covered by the proposed agreement.
“Tidewater and AMMA clearly have no respect for the fact that our members are away from their families for more than a month at a time, working every day for 12-hour shifts, in extreme environmental conditions. This workforce has some of the highest divorce rates and incidences of depression in Australia.”
Mr Tracey said the industry was clearly more interested in playing politics than reaching an agreement.
“AMMA’s campaign, supported by some politicians, has been to make out that our wage claims are excessive and that we are a threat to the international competitiveness of the offshore oil and gas industry.
“This has been revealed as a complete hoax.
“First, we produced research by BIS Shrapnel, which showed that the wages of maritime workers made up less than one per cent of the cost of building a project like Gorgon.
“Now, we have agreed to the wage offer that AMMA put forward as affordable, but they have now withdrawn the offer.
“We now have no choice but to take industrial action to ensure that local jobs are protected.”