Unions Threaten Possible Strike, Jeopardizing Australia’s LNG Exports

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Unions representing workers at Woodside Energy Group’s North West Shelf offshore gas platforms have issued a notice of a potential strike, which could disrupt the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Australia, a leading global exporter of the resource.

The decision to strike arises from a prolonged dispute between Woodside and its workers concerning pay and working conditions at the North West Shelf gas platforms, which provide feed to Australia’s largest LNG plant. As per Australian labor laws, unions are mandated to provide seven working days’ notice before initiating industrial action, although they retain the right to rescind this action before it is carried out.

The Offshore Alliance, formed by the Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Workers’ Union, indicated that it has unanimously decided to give Woodside the stipulated seven days’ notice. Should the company fail to meet its bargaining demands, a strike could commence.

Offshore Alliance spokesperson Brad Gandy criticized Woodside’s reluctance to engage in collective bargaining, stating, “Woodside tried every tactic it could think of to avoid bargaining with its workers as a collective, but in the end, the company failed to maintain the status quo it liked – one where what the company says goes.”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Woodside has refrained from commenting on the recent developments, referring to a previous statement affirming the company’s active participation in the bargaining process with a constructive approach.

Following the approval of “protected industrial action” by Australia’s Fair Work Commission, nearly 99% of Woodside workers gave unions the authorization to initiate various forms of industrial action, including work stoppages.

The Offshore Alliance also represents employees at Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG facilities, both of which could be affected by similar strike actions. Voting is currently underway among these workers to determine whether they will grant unions the authority to call for strike action.

Collectively, Woodside’s and Chevron’s facilities contribute approximately 10% of the global LNG market’s supply. Concerns over potential strike actions have already created market volatility, particularly in European gas prices, as fears mount that such actions could intensify competition between Asian and European buyers for LNG cargoes.

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