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Offshore Alliance win for Applus members

September 30, 2021

Offshore Alliance members working for Applus on Woodside’s Northwest WA oil and gas facilities have come up with a huge win after facing down no less than five company attempts at imposing a non-union enterprise agreement.

The Applus workers have just struck a new Offshore Alliance-backed deal, with significant gains in pay and conditions, after more than six months of protected action.

AWU Branch secretary Brad Gandy praised the members, saying they had shown great courage and solidarity in the face of hostile company negotiations.

“This was one of the hardest-fought EBA campaigns in the history of the Offshore Alliance,” Brad says. “Alliance members working for Applus showed incredible solidarity with each other and backed themselves in to stand up to the company and secure an incredible outcome.”

The Offshore Alliance, a formal partnership between The Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), first contacted Applus back in February 2020 to ask it to begin bargaining for an EA to cover its inspection, rope access and engineering support staff working in the Northwest of WA. The company refused.

In response the Offshore Alliance collected petitions from employees as proof that a majority of employees wanted to bargain, and in March 2020 the AWU applied to the Fair Work Commission for a majority support determination, to force Applus to the bargaining table.

Applus opposed the application, but in July 2020 the FWC handed down a decision in favour of the AWU, recognising that a majority of employees wanted to commence bargaining and that the majority support determination should be made.

Negotiations began in late 2020, but from the outset Applus adopted a hostile approach to both bargaining and the Offshore Alliance, refusing to move from its position of a baseline EA that provided little or no protection to members and provided nothing in the way of improved terms and conditions.

The AWU applied for a protected action ballot order on December 11, and the order was made on December 18.

Applus tried to get its first sub-standard EA voted up over the Christmas period in 2020.

Over the course of the next seven months of negotiations, Applus would attempt to have sub-standard offers voted up four more times. On every occasion, Applus workers would vote them down with huge margins.

On January 11, the results of the protected action ballot order were revealed, with more than 98% of members endorsing all 14 actions.

Over the next seven months, Offshore Alliance members at Applus engaged in hundreds of periods of protected industrial action, beginning on February 9 with some stoppages and bans.

In March, the action ramped up. In April and May, members were engaging in 12 hours of stoppages per day. In June and July, both day shift and night shift workers were engaging in 12 hours of stoppages a day. And in early August, the Offshore Alliance notified Applus of a month-long stoppage, spanning mid-August to mid-September.

Finally, on August 19, after discussing the company’s latest offer with members, the Offshore Alliance reached an in-principle agreement with Applus for a new union-negotiated EA to apply to its workforce in the North West working on Woodside facilities.

“It is practically unheard of for a company to try five times to get a non-union EA voted up,” Brad Gandy says.

“As a result of the company’s bargaining tactics, Offshore Alliance members were forced to take regular protected industrial action over the course of six months to get the company to realise that it couldn’t keep putting out sub-standard offers indefinitely. The members have secured this outcome through dedication and unity.

“They never buckled, and have shown what organised workers acting in unity can achieve.”

The new EA provides:

● Immediate uplift of up to 11.3% in rates of pay;
● Secure rosters;
● Annual wage increases of the greater of 2.5% or CPI;
● Onshore AICIP inspectors receiving an overall pay increase of at least 15.5% by July 2024, with an immediate initial uplift of 8%;
● With the inclusion of the offshore allowance, offshore AICIP Inspectors receiving an overall pay increase of at least 22% by July 2024;
● Immediate initial uplift of 11.3% in rates for Rope Access L.3 on commencement of the EBA (from $58.92/hour to $65.60/hour) and overall uplift of at least 18.8% by July 2024;
● 48 hours’ notice for changing shifts;
● Any incorrect pay must be rectified within two weeks of the identified underpayment;
● A $5/hour offshore allowance;
● Travel time – two hours onshore and three hours offshore for mobilisation and demobilisation;
● Overcycle allowance of $5/hour;
● Direction to take annual leave – Applus must provide at least 10 weeks’ notice;
● Training and renewals paid by the company;
● Fair Work Commission arbitration on referral by either party;
● Income protection of $4000/week or 85% of income for up to 104 weeks, with a 14-day waiting period;
● Cyclone stand down pay; and
● Superannuation paid on all rostered shifts.

The EA was approved on 23 September 2021. The new increased rates of pay commenced on September 1.

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