A bargaining request from the Maritime Union of Australia – which is demanding cooks at a gas plant off the West Australian coast be paid $230,000 a year – has prompted federal Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray to call time on the danger of inflated wages.
Gray told ABC Radio that overseas investment in large resources projects could be scared off by rising costs, and that excessive wage claims could kill Australia's resources “golden goose”.
In this case, the specific request by the Maritime Union would see cooks at the Ichthys gas field who work on offshore oil and gas project support vessels to be paid a base salary of $131,050. Penalty rates would potentially add another $100,000 per annum to their salary.
“Everyone needs to be careful that the costs that are placed on industry through these sorts of wage demands don't kill the golden goose," Gray said. “We've got to get things into proportion and to make sure that workers are paid properly ... and that we can continue to grow our industry and grow these projects,” he added.
According to The West Australian, the MUA wage demand also includes restrictions on foreign and non-union labour, and an allowance of up to $80 if air-conditioning fails two or more hours when temperatures exceed 28 degrees.
Gray said while unions were entitled to protect the rights of workers, asking for too much could have the opposite effect. “We do have to be careful. Excess demands can lead to loss of jobs and opportunities,” he said, adding all players in this area need to exercise moderation and proportion.