Bechtel offers increased benefits, but no concession on 3/1 for Curtis Island LNG

Bechtel continues to dangle the carrot before employees set to vote on the new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement by midnight, Thursday 14 August.

This is the third vote on an EBA proposed by Bechtel in the last 10 months, however sentiment among craft employees on Curtis Island LNG construction projects seems to indicate a large percentage of workers would prefer to hold out for an immediate change from a 4/1 roster to 3/1 roster.

A statement from Bechtel released to Australian Mining yesterday claims that the changes included in this current draft include total benefits worth $90 per day per local worker, which will increase to $115 per day in November.

Bechtel's figures for a FIFO worker's benefits are $65 per day, increasing to $90 per day in November.

The additional benefits include the existing travel allowance of $45 per work day will increase to $50 in November; an additional ferry allowance of $35 per day for local workers; introduction of a productivity payment of $10 per day, increasing by $20 to $30 per day in November; and an island living allowance of $10 per day.

The agreement also includes 2.5 per cent pay increases every six months, and back pay to May 1.

Bechtel have also pledged “improved return home travel arrangements for non-local FIFO employees”.

At present workers are flown to their home city by Qantas charter flights, and are not entitled to frequent flyer points, despite the fact that Bechtel lists the cost of flights as a fringe benefit on workers’ tax returns.

Bechtel also say they will introduce a 3/1 roster, but not until the final six months of the project, which will commence in two years or more.

Bechtel Gladstone general manager Kevin Berg said he believes there have been comments to the effect that a 3/1 roster would be simple to implement.

“Anyone who knows construction on the scale of these Curtis Island LNG projects would understand that’s not true,” he said.

“There are many possible scenarios depending on the approach, but at their foundation, these are lump sum jobs with a finite budget, scheduled with our customers, who in turn have committed schedules with their customers.

“All scenarios have the potential to impact those commitments and have further knock-on effects.

“One effect is huge staffing demands, which would impact accommodation planning (all camps are at capacity), buses, charter flights, ferry contracts, social/community impact planning right through to simple things like uniforms, security badging services, recruitment teams, etc.”

Bargaining agents during negotiations over the conditions of the new EBA have been the CFMEU, the CEPU, the AMWU and the AWU, as well as one individual employee who has chosen to represent himself.

Berg has also reminded employees that the industrial action carried out at both ferry terminals is not protected, and that they should return to work.

Bechtel have not yet clarified whether these workers will be allowed back to work, or if they will be locked out of the sites, although Berg has said if the present EBA is voted up then the company will remove all warnings against workers who took part in unprotected industrial action.

The representing unions on Curtis Island have reminded workers that according to Fair Work Commission law, no worker can be compelled to cross a picket line, whether protected or unprotected industrial action, if they believe there is a safety risk involved.

At present the CFMEU members picketing ferry terminals in Gladstone have refused to comply with orders from the Fair Work Commission which deem their action to be unprotected, and now the Federal Court has issued an order which names 72 individuals who must cease the action.

Unprotected strike action against Woodside on the Pluto Project in 2008 resulted in fines for individual workers of $10,000 each, which were issued last year.

Image: Gladstone Observer

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