Strike threats ease as Australian LNG unions endorse Woodside Energy offer

Stephen Stapczynski and Ruth Liao, Bloomberg August 24, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Liquefied natural gas (LNG) unions in Australia endorsed an in-principle offer from Woodside Energy Group Ltd., easing a strike threat in one of three disputes underway in the key exporting nation.

Details of the offer, the culmination of a 15-hour meeting on Wednesday, will be presented to workers at Woodside’s North West Shelf LNG operations later on Thursday, the Offshore Alliance — a group that represents two major unions — said on Facebook. Meanwhile, the unions committed to hold off on giving notice for strikes as they iron out the final details.

Workers at various Chevron Corp. operations in Australia are continuing to negotiate in two separate disputes that also carry a threat of potential strike action. A ballot on approving industrial action — a key step before any strikes can be triggered — is scheduled to be completed Thursday at the Gorgon and Wheatstone downstream facilities and on Aug. 28 at Wheatstone platforms.

“It’s pleasing that Woodside has made our members a strong offer without industrial action being taken,” Offshore Alliance spokesperson Brad Gandy said in an emailed statement. “Despite the lengthy road to this point, we are relieved that Woodside has now taken a more pragmatic approach and decided to offer our members an enterprise agreement with industry standard terms and conditions.”

Natural gas wealth

Woodside said “substantial progress” had been made in the talks and confirmed unions had not triggered an option to give the required seven working days’ notice to begin a strike. Workers at Woodside’s North West Shelf operations have been locked in discussions with the producer on demands around pay and other conditions for months.

Woodside committed to providing an updated draft enterprise agreement by Aug. 28, and the unions agreed to finalize the deal by Sept. 1, said Peter Carter, Western Australia state secretary for the Electrical Trade Union. The unions will not issue Woodside with a notice of industrial action up to Sept. 30, he added.

Woodside shares rose as much as 1.2% in Sydney on Thursday.

“If Offshore Alliance members at the Woodside NWS Platforms accept this deal, it will leave Chevron as the sole operator in the Western Australia gas fields without an Enterprise Agreement with its workforce,” the Offshore Alliance said Thursday.

Strikes at the Woodside and Chevron facilities threaten as much as 10% of global LNG supply, and prices in Europe and Asia have surged this month on the prospect of action.

Benchmark European natural gas prices sank 14% on Wednesday to erase most of the gains over the prior two sessions.

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