Esso dispute widens


By Dave Mizon
The dispute between Esso and striking Bass Strait rig workers widened last week, with picket lines being set up at Esso's Long Island point refinery, halting the shipment of LPG fuel by road and sea from that location, and at the Barries Beach replenishment and reprovisioning facility in East Gippsland. The decision to extend the picket lines to other Esso operations was made after bus loads of strike breakers and four road tankers of aviation gas were shepherded by hundreds of police through the four-week-old Longford Heliport picket line.
At the same time, the company has hardened its negotiating position, making new proposals for staffing cuts on the rigs and the remote operation of some of them. It has also been casting its net further for strike breakers, some being brought in from Esso operations in Malaysia.
Despite the increasing number of strike breakers working on the rigs, production of both gas and crude oil has been declining steadily.
The rig workers' industrial action is showing signs of success. However, they are coming under considerable pressure from the ACTU to wind up the dispute quickly and have been urged by Bill Kelty to rationalise and prioritise their "claims". The striking workers' only claim is that their current wages and conditions not be eroded.
Despite the ACTU pressure, there is still strong resolve among the strikers to win this dispute on their own terms and not to trade off hard-won conditions for pay rises, which is the compromise being offered by Esso and the ACTU.
For information on the dispute ring (03) 9866 8887 or to send messages of support call (019) 192 298.