Oil and gas workers in Longford, Victoria, Australia, have dismantled their picket line after a mammouth 742 days, following an agreement ending a long-running dispute with ExxonMobil and its maintenance subcontractor, UGL.
The victory against the world’s sixth biggest company, ExxonMobil, by workers who refused to give in, has had a global and nation-wide impact.
The union campaign has exposed billions of dollars of tax evasion by the energy giant and played a major role in pressuring the government to increase taxation on resource companies. It will see the Australian public receive an extra US$4 billion in revenue, with more to come.
The protest, which is one of the longest in Australian modern history, began on 22nd June 2017, when a number of the 230 maintenance workers at ExxonMobil’s Esso subsidiary in Longford refused to accept a new contract from UGL. The agreement slashed wages by 40 per cent, proposed gruelling anti-family rotas and left workers unpaid if they had to stop work due to technical problems.
The new sham contract had been signed by five people thousands of miles away in Western Australia, without any knowledge of local workers or unions.
Workers belonging to the Australian Workers Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Electricians Union have reached an agreement with ExxonMobil and UGL which will ensure that the sham contract is not used on any other site in Australia.
Furthermore, unions have forced UGL into agreeing to re-negotiate for a union-ratified collective agreement where the sham agreement has been used to date.
The campaign has received solidarity support from unions across Australia and all over the world, including Unite, the United Steelworkers, Workers Uniting and IndustriALL Global union
Troy Carter, a leading union rep at the dispute, visited Unite in 2018 and met members and officials in England and Scotland and did a a number of press and media interviews to highlight the dispute and one of the nine remaining workers on the picket line, said:
“The power of the union is strongest when it is up against the biggest. ExxonMobil is one of the biggest companies in the world, yet it couldn’t get rid of a picket line of nine trade unionists. This is a very important moment for unionists worldwide in demonstrating that we are ready to stand up and fight multinational companies against union busting.”
As the campaign grew, unions successfully lobbied the government into re-opening a Senate enquiry into corporate tax avoidance, during which ExxonMobil were forced into admitting they are owned by a shell company in the Netherlands. The Dutch company is in turn owned by another company in the Bahamas (a known tax haven) where ExxonMobil has a further 575 registered shell companies.
Unite officials are proud to have worked with Troy when he visited the UK. He did a fantastic job for his members giving interviews to the media and on TV notably in Scotland where he met oil workers and officials with retired Unite officer Tommy Campbell in Aberdeen. When the dispute reached 700 days the Morning Star did a major piece on the long running dispute. We also reached out to companies connected with the dispute.
International solidarity works! This small group of members are a credit to the global trade union movement and we can be proud we stood shoulder to shoulder with them.