A refusal to compromise on safety is at the heart of an overwhelming rejection by AMWU members of a proposed new enterprise deal at Esso’s gas and oil facilities that supply Victoria.
About 150 AMWU members voted down the Esso proposal this month brought on by the company, after nearly 12 months of fruitless negotiations at the Gippsland sites. The US multinational is insisting on changes that are an attack on working conditions.
The AMWU, with ETU and AWU members, are sticking strong in opposing new rosters, including a 14 days on / 14 off for workers on platforms in the Bass Strait - rather than the existing 7/7 split.
But the issue causing the strongest feelings is Esso’s proposals to reduce the number of operators on emergency response including at the Longford gas plant.
AMWU Organiser Steve Dodd said any Victorian who recalled the horrific 1998 Longford plant gas inferno which killed two men and shut down the state’s gas supply for weeks would realise that safety was paramount.
“They are cutting too near the bone and will compromise the response in an emergency situation – that’s not acceptable to our members or the wider community,” said Mr Dodd.
Industrial action against the changes are set to continue at the facilities, which Esso owns jointly with BHP Billiton.
The three agreements for our union, the ETU and AWU cover about 500 employees — those offshore plus the Longford, Long Island Point gas plants and Barry Beach Marine Terminal.
AMWU delegate Matt McDonald said workers strongly opposed new arrangements which would allow Esso to change rosters and pay apprentices less, but agreed with Mr Dodd that cutting emergency crew numbers was most alarming.
Over 90 per cent of workers rejected Esso management’s proposal.
“If an emergency happens after hours, when maintenance isn’t all here, we don’t want any risk they won’t have the numbers here to rescue people,” he said.
“Saving dollars doesn’t matter if it compromises safety, we’ve got workers who remember that day in ‘98 and no one wants that to happen again.”