BWI visits sacked Exxon/UGL workers

Nicholas McCallum

A-Pac rep asks if Australians pays a visit to a picket line nearing its first birthday. 

BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino last week visited the site of the out-of-work Exxon/UGL workers at Longford, Victoria. The 230 workers and their families have been fighting without pay for almost 365 days for fair wages and conditions, and a workplace agreement they themselves negotiate.

Many of the workers are members of one of BWI’s Australian affiliates, the Electrical Trades Union. Over the last two weeks BWI affiliates across the world have shared solidarity selfies in support of the maintenance workers.

Mr Tolentino says, "The BWI pledges our full solidarity to the Exxon/UGL workers who were fired by this global gas giant and their Spanish contractor simply because they said 'no' to severe pay cuts. These companies already have too much, and they do not even pay tax here in Australia."

Building and Woodworkers International Asia-Pacific rep Apolinar Tolentino joins the Esso/UGL strikers Longford, Victoria.

Mr Tolentino says UGL (owned by CIMIC-Hochtief-ACS) were able to cut the wages of an entire workforce by sacking the workers and using a sham enterprise agreement allowable under Australia’s Fair Work Act to offer the workers their jobs back on 30-40% less. This is the same loophole that was deployed in the 2016 CUB dispute, a campaign that BWI affiliates across the globe supported.

Besides reduced wages and conditions, the new agreement also includes a harsh roster that would tear workers away from their families for weeks on end.

"Exxon's contractor UGL has violated these workers’ international human right to collectively bargain for one's own terms and conditions. No employer can tell you what you will work for tomorrow, unilaterally," says Mr Tolentino.

The visit comes one week after fitter and union delegate Troy Carter was banned by gas giant Exxon from attending an ExxonMobil global shareholders’ meeting in Dallas, Texas.

Mr Tolentino speaks with striking Esso/UGL workers.

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson says, “It is appalling that Exxon won’t even allow their shareholders to see the impact of their ruthless cost-cutting behaviour”.

“We have written to ExxonMobil Australia Chairman Richard Owen, and global Chairman Darren Woods, to rebuke them for silencing workers' voices. This is the type of corporate conduct that should not come to mark the standard to which Australia lets corporations operate."

As Australian trade unions grow their 'Change the Rules' campaign, it is clear to BWI that the Exxon/UGL's struggle is becoming a symbolic dispute for the movement, testing the reality of the Liberal Government's philosophy that tax cuts and market deregulation will lead to better employment conditions for workers.

“For years, right-wing governments have told us that tax cuts are necessary to create jobs and lift our wages”, said ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks.

The picket is nearing the unfortunate milestone of its first birthday.

“But ExxonMobil Australia already have a low tax rate – they don’t pay anything. Even without the ‘cost’ of giving back to our community through taxes, companies like Exxon still attack workers’ wages and conditions while they channel their enormous profits through offshore tax havens.”

“This is naked corporate greed, and we’re calling on all BWI affiliates to take immediate solidarity action in support of these workers to tell Exxon and UGL that this disgusting behaviour has to stop”, Hicks continued.

Click here to sign the Labourstart petition and click here to download solidarity posters and support the striking workers.


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