Australia LNG unions threaten fresh strikes next week, Chevron says deal possible

(Reuters) - Chevron has asked Australia's industrial tribunal to help resolve a "small number" of issues blocking a deal with unions at its two LNG facilities in Western Australia as workers announced plans to resume strikes next week.

Chevron said on Monday it was committed to a deal with unions at its Wheatstone and Gorgon facilities and had asked the Fair Work Commission to help resolve a handful of sticking points, including how travel and meal expenses are reimbursed and cabin sharing on the offshore platform.

Hours earlier, unions told Reuters they had given the oil and gas major seven-days notice and strikes would resume next week at the facilities responsible for around 6% of global LNG output. Chevron confirmed it had received the notice.

“We don’t believe that industrial action is necessary, given we are seeking the assistance of the Fair Work Commission to resolve the small number of outstanding items between the parties," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"We will continue to take steps to maintain safe and reliable operations in the event of disruption at our facilities.”

The Offshore Alliance had called off strikes in late September after reaching a deal brokered by the Fair Work Commission, but the unions said last week that Chevron had reneged on the deal.

Chevron said a draft agreement based on the in-principle agreement was almost complete and it was committed to resolving the outstanding items.

“Once we receive the further clarification from the Commissioner, we will be able to finalize the Enterprise Agreements and provide them to our employees to vote on," a spokesperson said.

Markets have so far offered a mixed reaction to the threat of further strikes, in part because weeks of action in September did not disrupt shipments. Unions had varied the length and extent of the strikes.

European gas prices gained on Friday, however Asian spot LNG prices <LNG-AS> retreated from 7-month highs as demand remained muted.

Should further talks breakdown Chevron could choose to restart a petition requesting the Fair Work Commission intervene in the dispute, dictate an agreement and end strikes.

Chevron would need to give seven days notice before restarting the petition.

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