Two Australian Oil Unions Join Forces

The right-wing Australian Workers' Union and the left-wing Maritime Union of Australia have formed an historic alliance in the offshore oil and gas industry in Australia.

After months of talks the two unions have agreed to formally join forces to recruit and organize the multi-billion dollar Australian industry, which employs thousands of workers.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, effective immediately, there will be no demarcation disputes between the two unions. The AWU and MUA will combine their resources and efforts to:

  • Increase the coverage of collective agreements across the industry
  • Improve occupational health and safety standards and improve working conditions and wages
  • Increase the rate of union membership

The Alliance will launch a joint organizing campaign across the industry, targeting major off-shore operators including Woodside, ExxonMobil, BHP Billition, Newfield Exploration, Apache Energy, ChevronTexaco, Diamond Offshore, Vanguard and other employers including labor hire companies and service industry providers. Union officials involved in the campaign will have dual union accreditation.

The Alliance will be active in all major offshore regions within Australia including Timor Sea, North West Shelf, Bass Strait, the Great Australia Bight and the PNG to Australia pipeline.

AWU National Secretary Bill Shorten said the new alliance will clamp down on individual contracts, and target guest labor operators who undermine Australian wages and conditions by hiring migrant workers. After years of not working together on finding a solution, the agreement provides for the MUA and the AWU to work closely together so that all job classifications have either AWU or MUA coverage. He said the Alliance would crack down on workplace safety standards: "The Alliance is giving offshore companies notice that we will be campaigning heavily on all major sites and will not stop until we improve occupational health and safety standards and off-shore workers' conditions."

MUA National Secretary Padraig Crumlin said recent incidents within the offshore Industry that resulted in workers being killed and a range of major incidents highlighted the need for a tough stance on safety. "The Alliance is committed to improving OH&S standards across the industry," he said. "Together we will have more resources to detect and protect our members from sub-standard OH&S practices," Mr. Crumlin said.

This alliance is a tremendous step forward in protecting the working conditions and job security for the men and women who work in an essential Australian industry and is seen as an historic breakthrough within the Trade Union movement in Australia.

About 5000 workers are employed offshore on gas and oil rigs and allied service industries. Employment ranges from rig tenders, divers, seismic vessel workers to mobile offshore drilling units, pipe paying vessels, construction vessels and floating production and storage offtake facilities.