Chevron Australia LNG unions stick to strike plan even as pay talks continue

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Unions at Chevron’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Australia reaffirmed their plan to resume strikes this week as mediated talks continued on Monday, sparking angry comments from the company saying workers were being unreasonable.

An in-principle deal that ended weeks of strikes in September fell apart earlier this month after unions said Chevron had reneged on commitments and vowed to resume strikes at the Gorgon and Wheatstone sites, which supply around 6% of the world’s LNG.

Australia’s industrial arbitrator, the Fair Work Commission, mediated three days of talks last week and asked the Offshore Alliance to withdraw the strike plan while talks continued, Chevron said.

As a fourth day of talks began, a union representative who declined to be named, told Reuters the parties were apart on key issues and Chevron would need to change its position to avoid strikes restarting.

The Offshore Alliance, a coalition of two unions, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chevron said unions continued to introduce new matters into the dispute and were withholding agreement on other issues pending member votes.

At Chevron’s request, the Offshore Alliance said it held a ballot over the weekend and 91% of members reaffirmed an earlier decision to resume strikes from Oct. 19, according to a social media post on Sunday.

“Members have made it clear that they want Chevron to stop twisting the draft terms of our EBA’s (enterprise bargaining agreements) and are prepared to ramp up PIA (protected industrial action) until our EBA’s are properly sorted,” the post read.

Chevron said late on Sunday it was “extremely disappointed” by the vote to stick with the strike plan, against the arbitrator’s request.

“The union’s decision to ignore the recommendation … while discussions are continuing is very concerning, unreasonable and undermines the considerable progress made prior to Chevron requesting the Commission’s assistance last week,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Sonali Paul)