LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
I WOULD like to take this opportunity to respond to Esso production manager Andre Kostelnik's letter headlined "Unionists are spreading 'misinformation' ".
I do agree with Mr Kostelnik that Esso has made a positive contribution in the Gippsland community.
For most of Esso's 50 years here, there has been mutual respect between Esso management, its employees and its contractors' employees, which have supported our combined prosperity.
I would like to offer some relevant facts and raise questions I believe need to be asked.
The unions and its members are not spreading misinformation in the local community.
Firstly, the unions' information comes from the Australian Taxation Office website Corporate Tax Transparency.
In the 2014-15 financial year, ExxonMobil made nearly $8.5 billion dollars in Australia and paid no corporate tax.
The ATO states the following regarding Exxon Mobil's earnings and taxes:
"ExxonMobil Australia Pty Ltd total income $8,464,272,972 taxable income $zero tax payable $zero."
The questions that must be asked of Mr Kostelnik are:
How would he feel if he was offered his job back, doing the same job as he was previously doing, and being paid 30 per cent less wages?
How would he feel if he was unable to fulfil his family and financial responsibilities, if he was confronted with this option?
Why has this happened, and why has Esso's approach changed towards its contractor employees, taking into account the following?:
1. These workers are highly skilled and have a long history of working in the local oil and gas industry;
2. Australia has one of the cheapest production costs for Exxon Mobil, in the world 29 per cent compared to their globe average of 42 per cent;
3. Australia is Exxon Mobil's most profitable region;
4. Exxon Mobil Australian natural gas production has nearly tripled since 2013 to the present day, from 351 million cubic tones to 867 million cubic tones daily;
5. The wage rates that were being paid to the previous contractor employees (UGLK), before the change to UGL subsidiary MTCT, were comparative with most other heavy industry for similar positions and jobs; and
6. The UGLK offshore workforce has not had a pay rise since 2014.
The unions, throughout the negotiations with UGL, have offered to freeze wages for a number of years and look at other offsets to support the new contractor (UGL). This was dismissed out of hand.
Despite this, UGL went off and used its subsidiary, MTCT, to sign up an agreement with five workers on the other side of the country that reduced workers' pay and conditions by 30 per cent to 45 per cent.
These workers had no idea what they were signing, or that the agreement would be used in Victoria.
What UGL has done may be in compliance with the Fair Work Act, but you would have to ask if it is acceptable and meets the 'pub test'.
This dispute is a blight on the Australian Fair Work system that can disadvantage workers in one state by companies using workers in another state for their gain.
Esso states that it supports the local community through its community grants program and the employment of local workers.
Esso needs to show respect for its workers, including contractors' employees.
Without them, Esso would not be in the position of high profits and low costs of production.
The unions would call on Esso senior management to meet the unions and discuss the works of the dispute and to see if there is any good will in order to resolve this dispute.
We all need to remember, at the end of the day, if this dispute is not resolved, both parties will lose and the community will continue to suffer.