Unionists are spreading 'misinformation'

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

AS Esso Australia continues the challenge of transforming our Gippsland operations into an efficient, competitive gas producer, we have encountered strong resistance from some union members.

These unionists have been actively spreading misinformation in the community.

We have worked hard over many decades to be a dependable, valued contributor to our community, so I feel it is important to respond to some of these unfounded claims.

Firstly, I want to set the record straight that Esso Australia has been a strong employer providing our Gippsland employees long term careers and their contributions have been numerous and highly valued.

Despite union claims to the contrary, our strong history of employment in Gippsland stands firm.

We have not had a mass dismissal of employees, nor rounds of pay cuts.

Rather, we reached agreement earlier this year with our Longford employees, providing an-above CPI pay increase.

Our business and the investments we make has also contributed to thousands of high paying jobs over the years in the Gippsland community through suppliers and service providers who support our industry.

As a business, we periodically re-tender for our services, and have done so for many years, so that we can continue to be provided quality services at competitive market rates.

Most recently, this was done for general maintenance services, in which multiple qualified providers were invited to bid on providing specified services to support our continued operations.

UGL was the successful bidder and is responsible to manage the resources it requires to meet its contractual commitments as well as Esso's business requirements and service expectations, including compliance with all labour laws under the Fair Work Act.

Another claim by the unions is that the offshore roster that our new maintenance contractor has implemented means workers see their families half as often.

This is just not true.

In fact, a 14 days on, 14 days off roster results in the same time spent at work each year, but offers 13 fewer crew changes per year.

This leaves more time available for family and fewer days travelling to and from work.

Evolving to an industry standard offshore roster of 14 days on, 14 days off (instead of the seven on, seven off) is an important productivity improvement which Esso is also seeking to introduce for its own offshore employees, and which can help prolong the operating life of our operations and the associated high-quality jobs.

Currently, more than 50 per cent of the offshore workforce is working a 14 days on, 14 days off roster.

Another common myth being spread is the claim that Esso doesn't pay tax locally.

The reality is that since we began our Gippsland operations we have been one of Australia's largest tax contributors.

Since the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) was first applied to the Gippsland Basin Joint Venture's operations in 1990, Esso has paid more than $12 billion in PRRT alone to the federal government.

When combined with corporate income tax during the past decade, this equates to more than 50 cents in the dollar tax paid.

I have to say I am deeply disappointed to see the unions suggesting that Esso is hurting local workers and the local Gippsland community.

We have been an active member of the Gippsland community since oil and gas first flowed from our offshore Bass Strait operations in the 1960s.

We support about 200 community groups each year though our community contributions program.

In the past seven years, we have contributed more than $7 million to community organisations an average of $1 million per year.

This includes support for Gippsland schools through our Bright Future Grants program and environmental projects such as the Sale wetlands program with Conservation Volunteers Australia.

As one of the largest and longest standing employers in the region, we're proud to support the local community by providing skilled employment, utilising local services and suppliers and assisting many community groups and schools through our community contributions programs.

I want to assure you that we will do all we can, despite union resistance and misinformation, to make sure our Gippsland operations continue to be a competitive, viable and safe business into the future.

Gippsland Senior
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