Australia regulator allows protected action ballot at Chevron LNG plants

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia’s labour regulator has issued an order allowing a workers’ union to conduct a protected action ballot of employees over a planned strike at Chevron’s Wheatstone and Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities.

The Fair Work Commission in the order dated Thursday said the union can hold a protected action ballot of employees on any decisions over an industrial action.

Chevron and Woodside Energy Group have been holding talks with unions to avert threatened strikes over pay and conditions at Australian facilities that together supply about 10% of the LNG market.

Chevron and the union did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Industrial action in Australia, including strikes or work stoppages, must be approved by the Fair Work Commission before going to members for a vote. Protected action ballots are secret ballots that give employees the chance to vote on whether or not they want to initiate protected industrial action.

After a successful ballot, the union can decide whether to go ahead with action, which must take place within 30 days. Employers are given notice beforehand.

About 99% of workers at offshore platforms that supply gas to the Woodside-operated North West Shelf LNG plant, Australia’s biggest LNG plant, backed industrial action in a vote whose results were made public on Wednesday. But the unions have not yet called for action there.

Any industrial action would disrupt Australia’s LNG exports and increase competition for the super-chilled fuel, forcing Asian buyers to outbid European buyers to attract LNG cargoes.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Jacqueline Wong)