Regulator to hear Chevron's request as Australian LNG strikes threaten to ramp up

Stephen Stapczynski, Bloomberg September 12, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Chevron Corp.’s requests for a regulator to intervene in its liquefied natural gas (LNG) labor dispute in Australia will be heard on Sept. 22, as workers threaten to ramp up strikes this week.

The gas producer must participate in further mediation with the unions before the date of the hearing, Fair Work Commission President Adam Hatcher said in a preliminary hearing Tuesday.

Chevron applied for intractable bargaining declaration for sites in Western Australia. If the submission is approved, the commission can decide to assist in further negotiations or make a determination on terms and conditions of employment.

Partial strikes including work stoppages and bans on carrying out overtime and some other duties started Friday at Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone export plants, which together supplied about 7% of the world’s LNG last year. International gas price benchmarks soared at the prospect of an escalation to full union walkouts planned for two weeks from Sept. 14.

Chevron welcomes “the directions made in the Fair Work Commission today, which provide a clear path forward for all parties to resolve an agreement,” a spokesperson said by email. “We will continue to take steps to maintain safe and reliable operations in the event of disruption at our facilities.”

Offshore Alliance, a partnership between the Australian Workers’ Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, said earlier on Tuesday that it plans to continue industrial action until it secures a union-negotiated enterprise agreement.

The unions objected to the Sept. 22 hearing date proposed by the FWC. Since Chevron’s evidence is to be submitted by Sept. 15, the timeline wouldn’t give the unions enough time to prepare, said AWU lawyer Zach Duncalfe.

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