December 7, 2023

Organizers of a rolling strike at two Chevron-run liquified natural gas (LNG) plants in Australia plan to escalate work stoppages after failing to reach a bargaining agreement, The Offshore Alliance announced.

The escalation includes bans on loading tankers at Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG plants, which produced 7% of the world’s LNG in 2022, according to Semafor.

Workers at the plants have already been engaging in brief periodic stoppages, and now the unions say they may engage in hours long stoppages or fully begin a strike. They will reassess their situation every 12 hours now, CNBC reports.

The stoppages are a part of what the unions call “protected industrial action.” Chevron is attempting to circumvent the action through a uniquely Australian legal mechanism called the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is an industrial arbitrator, and Chevron is seeking an intractable bargaining declaration which, if granted, would force the unions to end the strike and allow the FWC to draft their own agreement.

Offshore Alliance, a partnership between the Australian Workers’ Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, says Chevron was initially opposed to the idea of arbitrating with the FWC. They claim Chevron “spent 3 years arguing that workers should not be able to ask the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate workplace disputes” but now that the workers are taking action they’re changing their tune.

Chevron went from “Industrial Anarchists” to wanting Australia’s FWC “to get them out of the hole in having to bargain with the union on a level playing field,” Offshore Alliance claimed in a Facebook post.

Australia was the world’s top LNG exporter in 2022, an accolade it appears to be quickly relinquishing. Both Qatar and the United States have been aggressively accelerating their LNG production and exports. Even without decreased production from the work stoppages the former prison colony was likely to lose its top spot this year.

Still, Australia remains an important exporter to Asia, China in particular, and their production is a key pillar in global energy supply. But unless Chevron cave, the strike could go on and on.

“We’re only just getting started with our Protected Industrial Action and the Chevron beancounters are starting to shit bricks,” The Alliance said on Facebook.

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