Bechtel workers allowed leave to protest FTA

Bechtel employees on Curtis Island have won the right to take leave next Monday to march in protest against the China Free Trade Agreement.

Last week GLNG deputy site manager Rod Beach attempted to scotch union members’ leave requests by informing supervision that any leave requests already approved were to be unapproved.

Beach said Bechtel would not sanction or authorise any activity relating to the FTA, and required normal, full attendance to “get stuff done”.

A leaked internal email showed Beach said that workers rostered on a 4/1 rotation should not request RDOs outside of their scheduled breaks.

The Federal Circuit Court upheld the claim made by unions that the blanket ban on leave requests on the day of union-organised protests was made in violation of the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act.

Bechtel agreed to remove the ban on leave requested for Monday 17 August leave and to approve the leave of all workers who had requested it, provided they had leave available and their presence “was not crucial to the operation of the project”.

Bechtel Gladstone general manager Kevin Berg said normal approvals would remain in place after agreement with the unions, and admitted the matter could have been better handled.

"We understand our commuication with respect to approval of leave could have been better in this instance on one of our projects," he said.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) said around 250 workers had submitted leave applications by the deadline.

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said the ruling served as a warning to employers who sought to curtail employees activities outside of work.

“It is disgraceful that we had to pursue legal action to prevent a company interfering with the basic democratic freedoms of its workers,” he said.

“This has put companies on notice that they cannot prevent their employees from taking lawful action in their own time to protest on an issue that affects the lives and livelihoods of millions of working Australians.

 “I look forward to gathering with Bechtel workers and others around the Gladstone area to talk about this sub-standard agreement and the threat that it represents to our living standards.”

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