Workers on the Ichthys offshore facilities will be put in isolation for two weeks before going to work on the project's facilities off the Kimberley coast under a deal struck between operator Inpex and unions.

Boiling Cold understands most workers will have two weeks in isolation, three weeks offshore and then four weeks at home. Some workers will work a 2/2/2/ roster.

It is understood the workers will be individually isolated in hotel rooms in Perth or Broome while paid for 7.5 hours a day.

Offshore Alliance spokesperson Daniel Walton said the deal was an outstanding example of unions and employers working together in good faith.

"From the moment this crisis hit, Inpex management's approach has shown they understand the responsibility they have as employers and as Australian corporate citizens," Walton said.

The regular roster is three 84-hour weeks offshore followed by three weeks at home.

Boiling Cold understands that most workers will not be required while offshore activities are reduced to minimise the risk from COVID-19. They will be paid for 21 hours a week, half the average pay over the regular six-week cycle.

Boiling Cold spoke to one Monadelphous worker who had just moved into a new house bought before the economy collapsed.

"I thought we were buggered," he said.
"That 21 hours minimum keeps the wolves from the door.
"It’s a very, very happy household right now.”

The Offshore Alliance of the Australian Workers Union and the Maritime Union of Australia has been vigorously unionising the oil and gas industry’s offshore workforce.

After a brief protected action, or strike, on the Ichthys offshore facilities in September Inpex contractor Monadelphous agreed to significant pay rises and 130 of its 180 casual workers were placed in permanent positions.

All oil and gas companies with offshore facilities are scrambling to find a solution to keep production flowing safely while avoiding a shutdown from a COVID-19 outbreak amidst a collapse in revenue from a collapse in oil and gas prices.

An industry-wide problem

The major players are Inpex, Shell’s Prelude floating LNG facility, Chevron’s Wheatstone platform and Woodside’s platforms that supply gas to the North West Shelf LNG plant.

In a statement, the Offshore Alliance said Woodside had discussed with its contractors a roster of two weeks isolation, 12 weeks offshore and possibly four weeks at home that was “catastrophically unsafe.”

Walton, who is also AWU national secretary, said the “decent, honest, and rational approach to negotiation” of Inpex was in stark contrast to Woodside.

“Woodside's response to COVID-19 so far has been, frankly, unhinged,” Walton said.

“At a time when Australians everywhere are putting aside differences and pulling together, Woodside management is apparently relishing the pandemic as a chance to crack the whip brutally on an already alienated workforce.

“That any management team could countenance a 14-week stint away from home is jaw-dropping. A 12-week on-swing on a platform runs counter to safety standards, mental health guidelines, and common sense.

“I strongly urge Woodside management to take a deep breath, to take a look at the world around them, and to start acting like half-decent corporate citizens.”

Woodside were asked to comment on the the 12-week proposal.

A Woodside spokesperson said the company is collaborating its employees and contractor employees to implement working arrangements to ensure the health and safety of its workforce, continue gas supply to WA, provide security for its 3,800 employees and retain around 400 jobs across its contractor workforce.

"Recent social media posts by some parties suggesting otherwise are disappointing because they are inaccurate, out of touch with the challenges facing the broader Australian community, and inconsistent with the supportive and collaborative approach generally being taken by the trade union movement," the spokesperson said.

"These very challenging circumstances should not be used as an opportunity for ill-informed criticism."


Main Picture: Ichthys Explorer central processing facility. Credit: Inpex


Updates:

March 29, 4:30 PM Woodside comments added.