Chevron, Australian unions hit snag in deal, workers to meet for possible strike vote

(Reuters) - Efforts to finalize a pact to end strikes at Chevron's two Australian LNG plants hit a snag with unions accusing the U.S. energy major of reneging on commitments and potentially gearing up to resume stoppages.

Workers called off strikes less than two weeks ago after unions and Chevron accepted proposals on pay and conditions proposed by the country's industrial arbitrator, the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

Since then the parties have worked to turn the commission's broad recommendations into a legally binding contract.

On Thursday, however, the Offshore Alliance, a coalition of two unions, said Chevron had "reneged" on its commitments to the arbitrator. Members would meet on Thursday night and Friday afternoon to discuss the issue, it said in a statement posted on social media.

A union representative who declined to be identified said it would recommend that workers serve Chevron notice of intent to resume strikes and it was likely workers would agree to do so.

If workers approved the move, unions would need to provide Chevron seven days' notice before any strikes could begin, though unions could also not follow through on the threat.

"Ideally both parties don't want to see strikes eventuate again, and a vote to strike will act as pressure to finalize the agreements. But if trust is breaking down we could end up where we were a month ago quite quickly," said energy analyst Saul Kavonic.

"Overall, it is still very likely this will all resolve one way or another without a material supply disruption."

Chevron and unions had made progress drafting the agreement, but differences remained over issues such as reimbursement for meals or travel for training, according to a second union representative involved in the negotiations.

A Chevron spokesperson said the company had accepted the FWC recommendations and would "continue to work with all parties to finalize the drafting process based on the recommendation."

If the two sides fail to reach a deal, the matter could go back to the commission, which had been due to begin hearings on whether to intervene and end strikes when the parties reached an 11th-hour agreement.

Those hearings were adjourned for four weeks in late September to give time to draft an agreement. Chevron would need to give seven days' notice before resuming the matter.

Weeks of strikes at Chevron's Gorgon and Wheatstone facilities, responsible for about 7% of global LNG supply, roiled natural gas markets, though no LNG shipments were disrupted.

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