Workers at the Gorgon project are a step closer to taking protected strike action after the Fair Work Commission approved their right to conduct a protected action ballot.
New enterprise bargaining agreements with major contractor CBI Kentz have been voted down four times on the Barrow Island gas job, with unions claiming the contract proposals have not been successful because they failed to address that most workers want to change to a lower compression roster.
At present workers are scheduled on four weeks on, one week off rosters (4/1), but many say they want a change to 20 days on and 10 days off.
Workers will be asked to vote on whether they support “an unlimited number of stoppages on the performance of work between 30 minutes and up to and including 24 hours”.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Steve McCartney said the union wanted to bring FIFO work into the 21st century with a more sustainable roster that took into account the increasingly diverse nature of the FIFO workforce.
“It’s no longer just young single men leading this life and it’s not about the money: it’s about workers who just want more time with their families while doing the best they can for them,” he said.
“We have continually urged CBI to put out a roster that at least went part of the way to addressing our members’ concerns but they have ignored that advice.
“CBI have had every opportunity to come to put a family friendly roster on the table but the law says where they won’t compromise, our members have a right to vote on whether to take industrial action.”
A recent report from the WA inquiry into mental health impacts of FIFO rosters recommended that the minister for mines and petroleum should encourage employers to use low compression rosters (such as even time or 2/1) in order to reduce fatigue and significant risks to mental health and wellbeing.
Research from Edith Cowan University has shown the incidence of depression among FIFO workers (28.3 per cent) was more than double the rate of the general population (13 per cent), in a sample of 629 FIFO workers in Western Australia.
McCartney said the union was advocating 20/10 as a sensible midpoint between even-time and the current roster of 26/9.
“It’s reasonable and achievable. The prospect of industrial strife could end today if Chevron would just meet us in the middle,” he said.
The union has said that the family friendly roster would allow more Australians to apply for work on the project, and reduce the need for workers from overseas.
Project operator Chevron has provided guidance suggesting the first gas shipment from Gorgon will take place by the end of the year.