Bechtel loses bid to lock-out MUA

The Fair Work Commission has dismissed attempts by Bechtel to block the Maritime Union of Australia from going on-site at the Curtis Island LNG project in Queensland.

In handing down its decision Fair Work said while the MUA could not represent riggers, mooring masters, and other workers, excavator operators on-site could choose to join the union.


Bechtel had attempted to block MUA access to excavator workers by claiming the employees were not performing “waterside work”.


“There is sometimes little or no excavation work to be performed on the wharf; that work is only about 60 per cent of time [and] when excavator operators are not on the barge, they may perform roadwork . . . that is clearly not waterside work,” Bechtel's lawyers said.


In her ruling Fair Work commissioner Susan Booth said the excavator workers could be considered to be doing maritime work, and the MUA therefore had the right to come on-site.


“There was evidence … that the work of an excavator operator is no different whether it is on the land or on a barge,” she said.


“However this is not the point. The work is unloading aggregate from barges at a wharf. That places the work in the marine environment.”


“Indeed, it seems that the employer is mindful of the marine environment. Advertisements for crane operators that were brought to the Commission’s attention made reference to experience around the marine environment being viewed in high regard.”


The Australian Mines and Metals Association said there was a chance Bechtel would appeal the decision, and the lobby group said the MUA move to Curtis Island represented an attempt to poach more members.


The MUA has urged Bechtel to accept Fair Work's decision and said any move to appeal the ruling could be met with strike action from a number of affiliated unions.

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