Esso’s family unfriendly rosters

THE AUSTRALIAN Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) recently rejected an application by contractors working for energy giant Esso to force Bass Strait oil and gas rig workers onto 14-day rosters, claiming they were unfriendly to fathers and families

THE AUSTRALIAN Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) recently rejected an application by contractors working for energy giant Esso to force Bass Strait oil and gas rig workers onto 14-day rosters, claiming they were unfriendly to fathers and families.

The three Esso contractors proposed 14-day rosters in place of existing 7-day rosters after current enterprise agreements expired in June last year, however unions vigorously opposed the move claiming that workers would have been shifted back to basic award conditions, pressuring them financially to accept roster changes.

The AIRC refused to terminate the bargaining period between unions and contractors employed by Esso, stating that fathers needed to spend time with their families.

“The community now accepts that matters such as the importance of a father in a child’s life and the need to support and sustain families are matters of public interest,” said Commissioner Dominica Whelan.

“In this day and age fathers are not content to simply be the person who takes the children to the odd footy match and on an occasional camping trip.”

She said the role of fathers in rearing children and the need for them to play an active role in their children’s lives was being supported by government and society in general.

The decision applies to about 200 male off-shore and on-shore construction workers on Esso’s oil and gas rigs in the Bass Strait, off Victoria’s Gippsland coast.

Noting that many of the workers were fathers, Commissioner Whelan condemned Esso and contractors Kellogg, Brown and Root, Corke Instrument Engineering and Worley ABB for trying to apply financial pressure to rig workers and their families after 12 months of negotiations characterised by strikes, lock-outs and legal action.

Australian Workers Union (AWU) national secretary Bill Shorten said that the oil and gas workers’ families had based their lives around the 7-day roster for up to 25 years, and the new rosters would’ve disrupted their lives for no significant benefit.

“The Esso companies have failed to make any convincing case for the 14-day rosters. They have spent millions of dollars on legal fees to try to force through changes that could save only a fraction of that amount,” he said.

The AWU provided evidence to the Commission including survey results showing 90 per cent of workers’ wives opposed the planned 14-day rosters. The union also relied on the International Labour Organisation’s family responsibilities convention.

Esso spokesman Chris Welberry said the company would need to look at the ruling and talk to its contractors to understand the implications.

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