Woodside Says Constructively Addressed Several Worker Concerns

Copyright Mike Mareen/AdobeStock
Copyright Mike Mareen/AdobeStock

Woodside Energy has "constructively addressed" several concerns of workers at Australia's largest LNG facility, its CEO said on Tuesday, a day before crucial talks with unions aimed at averting any industrial action that could disrupt global supplies of the super-chilled fuel.

Australia is the world's biggest LNG exporter, and Woodside's North West Shelf, along with Chevron's Gorgon and Wheatstone projects, supply about one-tenth of the global market.

Unions representing the offshore platform workers at both companies are demanding better wages and conditions, and the threat of industrial action has driven global LNG prices higher.

On Wednesday, the unions will hold talks with Woodside's management about possible action. The overwhelming majority of workers at North West Shelf's offshore gas platforms have already notified Woodside that they may go on strike as early as Sept. 2.

"It takes two to tango," Woodside Chief Executive Meg O'Neill said in an interview with Reuters.

O'Neill said the company was "proceeding with goodwill and with respect" in its talks with the union, adding that it was "very focused on really understanding the key areas of concern."

"But we also of course, have a duty to our shareholders to be able to run the business," she said.

"I feel like we have kind of constructively addressed a number of their areas of concern," she added.

Worries that any action could disrupt LNG exports are supporting Asia spot LNG prices at above $14 per million British thermal units, two traders said. Dutch wholesale gas prices eased on Tuesday after the September contract settled sharply higher at 40 euros ($43.48) per megawatt hour (MWh) on Monday, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

Woodside and its workers have been locked in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions at North West Shelf.

The Offshore Alliance (OA), which combines the Maritime Union of Australia and Australian Workers' Union, said in a Facebook post that it was time Woodside workers got their "fair share" of profits. "The OA members are primed and ready to go," the alliance added.

Some 99% of Woodside workers at North West Shelf's offshore gas platforms have granted unions permission to call a strike. Industrial action could range from short work stoppages and bans on certain tasks to an all-out strike.

Workers at Chevron's Wheatstone and Gorgon voted last week on taking industrial action, and the Offshore Alliance said the results would be published on Thursday and Monday.

In a call following first-half earnings, O'Neill acknowledged that any disruption would make it challenging for Woodside to deliver supplies, but she declined to give details.

Last year, a two-month labour dispute against Shell at its Prelude floating LNG site off northwest Australia cost the company about $1 billion in lost exports until it reached a pay deal.

Unions in Australia are required by law to give companies seven working days' notice before any industrial action, but the union can also elect to call off any action before then.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon and Renju Jose; Additional reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Alasdair Pal, Christopher Cushing and Himani Sarkar and Miral Fahmy)

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