Australian Workers' Union Wins Right to Keep 7-Day Schedule

The Australian Workers' Union has defeated a legal bid by multinational energy giant ESSO to force Bass Strait oil and gas rig workers onto 14-day rosters.

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission on September 7 rejected an application by three construction contractors working for ESSO to terminate agreements including 7-day-on/7-day-off rosters. The decision stops ESSO from changing the rosters to 14-days-on/14-days-off.

AWU National Secretary Bill Shorten welcomed the ruling. "The ESSO decision is an extraordinary win for the families of 200 workers who stood up to one of the world's largest and most aggressive companies. The courage and conviction of AWU members in resisting the bullying tactics of ESSO have been rewarded with a comprehensive legal victory that clearly affirms the justice of the AWU's case," Mr. Shorten said.

"The ESSO companies have failed to make any convincing case for the 14-day rosters. They have spent millions of dollars on legal fees to try to force through changes that could save only a fraction of that amount. The oil and gas workers' families have based their lives around the 7-day roster for up to 25 years. The proposed 14-day rosters would needlessly disrupt workers' personal and family lives for no significant benefit."

In the decision, the AIRC found that "at a time when for reasons of public policy emphasis is being given to the need for children to have greater involvement of males in their day-to-day lives, to lengthen the time period for which the father is totally absent from these families seems to me to be contrary to that policy and to the public interest."

The decision applies to about 200 male off-shore and on-shore construction workers on ESSO's oil and gas rigs in the Bass Strait, off Victoria's Gippsland coast. The three ESSO contractors - Kellog, Brown and Root, Corke Instrument Engineering and Worley ABB - proposed the 14-day rosters after current enterprise agreements expired in June last year.

AWU members have taken industrial action over the dispute this week. Worley ABB employees are banning work on ESSO platforms and Kellogg, Brown and Root employees area banning work on shipping pumps at Long Island.

The AWU provided extensive evidence to the Commission including survey results showing 90% of workers' wives opposed the planned 14-day rosters. The AWU also relied on the International Labor Organization's Convention Concerning Workers with Family Responsibilities.

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