Esso dispute drags on

AMWU organiser Steve Dodds is not hopeful of a swift resolution to the ongoing enterprise agreement negotiations with Esso.
Nanjing Night Net

Esso is maintaining its employer response action of locking out maintenance workers for two hours a day at its onshore facilities and up to three hours off-shore despite the AMWU and ETA having lifted work bans on overtime and call outs.

“Esso is just muddying the waters by continuing its employer response action, with the precondition of our industrial action having been lifted,” he said.

Mr Dodds told the Gippsland Times two of the unions, the AMWU and the ETU, would be conducting consultations with members at Longford, Long Island and Barry Beach for onshore workers and the Longford heliport for off-shore workers during the coming weeks to discuss negotiation options.

A Federal Court case between Esso and the AWU has been underway since March, with neither side looking likely to back down any time soon.

AWU state secretary Ben Davis said the outcome of the Federal Court appeals by the AWU and Esso -— which are due to be heard simultaneously in late November — would have a significant impact on determining how far away a new EBA agreement is.

“That’s why I’m not as surprised as I might otherwise be that things are dragging on, because the outcome of those appeals is significant in terms of where the dispute goes,” Mr Davis said.

“Depending on how it shapes out, it’s either going to put pressure on Esso, or pressure on us, or both. Pressure to settle or to sort it all out that is.”

Mr Davis said the AWU, like the two other unions, were in regular contact with members to keep them in the loop, however he felt there didn’t appear to be any significant ground to be made in the near future.

“The days where Esso would just say this is doing too much damage to our business, how do we settle it? Those days are gone,” he said.

“They’ve got a conservative government who no one would claim is friendly to either workers or the unions, so of course they’re taking advantage of that.”

From Richard Ellis, Public and Government Affairs Manager, Esso Australia:

I WRITEin response to your article ‘Industrial action suspended but Esso still locks out workers’.

I would like to reiterate that we remain committed to working with our workforce and their representative unions during the enterprise agreement negotiations in order to reach an agreement that benefits everyone involved.

The lifting of the AMWU and ETU protected industrial action notices, which have been significantly impacting our business for the past seven months, is a positive step forward. Unfortunately, it does not signal an end to the dispute.

Throughout the lengthy negotiations, we have been clear in our need for change in order to ensure a safe and sustainable future for our Gippsland operations.

Esso is seeking needed improvements to work practices, including increased flexibility in shift rosters at Longford, as part of the bargaining process. Contrary to your article, we are not seeking a reduction in the number of operators at Longford. In fact, the company’s offer that was voted down maintained the same number of total operators but instead moved away from the highly prescriptive rostering system that has been in place for many years. Our business has evolved since then and Esso has invested heavily in the safety of its operations, including a state of the art control room and significantly upgraded emergency response equipment. Safety is a core value for Esso and we will not compromise our safety standards.

Standing down sections of the workforce for specific hours of the day was a response to ongoing sporadic work stoppages which made it difficult to plan important maintenance at Longford and offshore. We did not take this decision lightly and made it clear to the unions, before they lifted their industrial action, we would continue with this approach until there was a clear path to reaching an agreement and ending the dispute.

Esso has offered its employees generous salary increases well above the rate of inflation and made numerous compromises in the past 12 months but all of these have been rejected by the unions.

Our ongoing operations are not just important for the benefit of our workforce and the local Gippsland community, but also for the energy security it provides to Victoria and the wider financial benefit to the Australian economy. Our company and the jobs we provide are only as good as our commitment to long-term success. We need to be more flexible and productive in the way we all work.

Most employees covered by these agreements are already in the top tier of income earners in Australia and the items we are asking for are already accepted practice within the rest of the oil and gas industry in Australia. We just need to work smarter to sustain our Gippsland business into the future.

We are encouraged by the lifting of industrial action and remain ready and available to meet with the unions to progress bargaining. Esso has been an important part of the Gippsland community for more than 40 years and we hope to be here for many more years to come.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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