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Big Win for Offshore Alliance Members

December 13, 2021

Offshore Alliance members on the Northern Endeavour FPSO have overcome fierce employer resistance to win the right to collectively bargain.

The Offshore Alliance is a formal partnership between The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

Offshore Alliance members work for UPS, the principal contractor on the Northern Endeavour, which is located in the Timor Sea about 550km northwest of Darwin, in water ranging from 350m to 410m deep.

The Northern Endeavour is in lighthouse mode, awaiting decommissioning after the title holder – Northern Oil and Gas Australia Pty Ltd – went into administration.

NOGA controversially took the Northern Endeavour off Woodside’s hands at the end of its operational life, allowing Woodside to dodge the huge decommissioning bill – which has been estimated to cost up to $1 billion.

As a result, the Federal Government was forced to recently introduce a Bill imposing a levy on all oil and gas production in Australia to pay for the decommissioning of the Northern Endeavour and the associated fields.

With its Northern Endeavour members keen to begin bargaining for an enterprise agreement the Offshore Alliance contacted UPS on October 8, 2021, to formally request that it begin the process, but received no response.

As a result, the Alliance began to collect petitions from employees who wanted to bargain, but representatives of the company soon showed anger at being challenged by the union.

“We received reports of a manager from UPS addressing employees at a toolbox meeting, actively discouraging union membership,” AWU WA State Secretary Brad Gandy said.

“He was allegedly telling employees that ‘this is not a union vessel and it will never be a union vessel’ and ‘if you want to preach that propaganda you can leave’.

“It was obvious at this point we had a hostile company that desperately wanted to avoid dealing with the Offshore Alliance, but it is almost inevitable that if Alliance members want to bargain, bargaining will commence sooner or later.”

As a result of the manager’s outburst the Offshore Alliance wrote to UPS reminding the company of its obligations and its employees’ rights under the Fair Work Act.

On October 22 the Alliance contacted UPS again to ask it to bargain, but UPS continued to stonewall, replying a few days later that it would not agree.

UPS then began campaigning to avoid bargaining, contacting individual employees to ask them to deal with the company directly about terms and conditions of employment, in a blatant attempt to circumvent legitimate union involvement in bargaining.

On November 3, the Alliance applied to the Fair Work Commission for a Majority Support Determination.

Under the Fair Work Act, if a bargaining representative can demonstrate that the majority of employees want to collectively bargain, a Majority Support Determination is granted and the employer must come to the table and bargain “in good faith”.

UPS opposed the application and instead wanted to run its own ballot. Confident that the vast majority of UPS workers on the Northern Endeavour wanted to bargain, the Offshore Alliance agreed, with some conditions, that the company could engage an independent and trusted balloting agent to ballot employees on their support for bargaining. UPS confirmed that if the ballot was a majority ‘yes’ it would begin bargaining.

UPS subsequently ran a “vote no” campaign with its employees before and during the balloting, but a solid majority voted in favour of bargaining.

On November 25 UPS finally backed down, informing the Fair Work Commission that it would issue a Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR) within seven days. The company issued the NERR on November 30.

“The Offshore Alliance’s reputation for winning Majority Support Determination applications is now well known,” Mr Gandy said.

“No matter what part of the offshore oil and gas industry you are involved in, you can join the Offshore Alliance and the Alliance will support and work for you.”

Join Offshore Alliance Today 



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