Union members rallied in Darwin yesterday to protest against working conditions at the Ichthys LNG construction project.
With 450 to 500 members taking to the streets, workers sought to highlight issues such as suicides among FIFO workers, the effects of 4/1 rosters on mental health, and worksite health and safety concerns.
"Walkways are atrocious and often flooded, there's little traffic management, and sometimes you're working alone with no-one else in your area, there's no buddy system," one worker told the ABC.
Electrical Trade's Union (ETU) assistant secretary for NT and Queensland branch Peter Ong said the union had approached contractor JKC about the mental and physical safety issues, but made no progress in negotiating with the company.
"We've been trying to push for shorter rosters on the project, there's been a new industry standard set in Western Australia which is 20 days on 10 days off,” Ong said, referring to the 2015 roster change on Barrow Island’s Gorgon LNG project.
“This roster is still 28 days on and seven off … and it's just damaging families.”
Ong said the union was also concerned about discriminatory hiring practices against local workers who would want time off on weekends.
"The promise was made from INPEX when they came to Darwin that they would provide plenty of work for the local workforce and local Darwin people," he said.
"They've provided some jobs, but we're seeing more and more locals being knocked back because they want to have days off on the weekend to spend with their families… but they don't want that on the project, they want people to be working seven days a week for four weeks straight."
A statement from JKC and INPEX said they were committed to the safety and health of employees, the communities and the environment.
“We operate under the company's core value of 'Anzen dai ichi' — safety number one," the statement said.
"It is the way we think, act and promote safety that forms the core of a strong health and safety culture.
"We work to the requirements set out by the Work Health and Safety Act and all incidents at our Australian sites are reported according to the Work Health and Safety Act.”
The companies said that the 4/1 roster meant that FIFO employees worked 24 days out of 35 in the five week roster.
"In addition, during their 28 days on site, workers accrue time towards two rostered days off,” they said.
“At the end of the 28 days, the two accumulated days are paid out during the employees' seven-day rest and recreation period, or alternatively they can be paid out upon termination of employment.
"Both of these options were agreed with all four construction unions."