Workers gathered at Geelong Trades Hall on November 24 to raise funds for Esso maintenance workers in Longford, Victoria, who have been locked out for 170 days. Barbecues sizzled, drinks flowed and Scabby the Rat was inflated, while workers were entertained by the classic rock band, Rock n Roll Exchange.
Esso’s maintenance contractor UGL, which operates maintenance on the gas rigs in Bass Strait, ended the previous employment agreement and offered workers a new agreement with 40% less pay, worse conditions and extended rosters on the platform with no guaranteed shore breaks.
Locked out Esso workers Troy Carter and Dane Coleman thanked the crowd for their support. Carter said: “We are not just struggling for ourselves and to get our jobs back. We are fighting for all workers. If Esso has their way, companies in all industries will try the same tactics and more workers will suffer. We must win this dispute and with your help we will.”
The campaign to save the workers’ jobs will now focus on lobbying governments to change the law and expose Esso for not paying taxes despite cutting wages and making record profits.
Locked out workers were also honoured a few nights later in Melbourne at the annual Spirt of Eureka dinner with an award recognising their struggle and the campaign to save jobs, wages and conditions for all workers.
Money was raised at both events for the locked out workers and organisers encouraged workers and unions in other cities and regions to hold events to raise funds in solidarity with the workers.