AN estimated 1000 workers marched on Esso’s Melbourne headquarters on Tuesday, as the stand-off outside Longford Gas Plants between Esso, UGL, unions and employees ticked over 300 days.
More than 1600 people crammed into a packed Melbourne Town Hall at a Change the Rules delegates mass meeting, and an additional 900 gathered spilled onto the street. The group then marched to Esso headquarters in Southbank.
The first of more than 20 mass meetings and rallies to be held Australia-wide in the next month, the Change the Rules event is part of a union-wide campaign.
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union state
secretary Steve Dargavel said the dispute showed
exactly why workers around the country were
joining the campaign to change the rules.
“If this dispute doesn’t prove that the rules are
broken then I don’t know what will,” he said.
“A sham agreement signed by five casuals in
Western Australia used to attack people’s wages
and conditions here in Victoria.
“Wages cut, allowances cut, reasonable rosters
“This is not what the ‘Fair’ Work Act should be
“We need to change the rules to ensure this stops
happening to working people across Australia,”
said Mr Dargavel.
He claimed Exxon had not been paying its “fair
share” of corporate tax.
“The system is broken when ordinary working
people pay more tax than the sixth-largest
company in the world,” he added.
Australian Workers Union Victorian secretary
Ben Davis called on the state government to
intervene, after the dispute notched up 300 days.
“The state government needs to roll up the
sleeves and get involved in this dispute,” he said.
“UGL are a contractor to government projects,
and the government can’t continue to not be
“These workers need action, their families need
action, the union movement demands action.”
Electrical Trades Union state secretary Troy
Gray pointed to the solidarity of the union movement
as a crucial element of the lengthy campaign.
“The one thing that has become clear over the
course of this dispute is that these 230 workers
could not have held the line without the support
of the community, the union movement, and their
loved ones,” he said.
Esso has repeatedly asserted it does pay its fair share of corporate tax.
It has appeared before the Senate Economics Committee on a number of occasions, where it has responded to “incorrect allegations” made by unions and the Tax Justice Network.
During the past decade, ExxonMobil Australia maintains it has paid more than 50 cents in every dollar of profit in corporate income and petroleum resource rent tax.
It says every dollar ExxonMobil Australia earns in Australia is taxed in Australia.
In the past it has also said it was important to not confuse revenue with profit, and as a wholesaler of automotive fuels, most of ExxonMobil Australia’s revenue was made up of the cost of oil and refined product, as well as federal excise.
Despite currently being in a corporate income tax loss position, Esso has said it continued to pay significant amounts of tax to all levels of government, including more than $250 million in petroleum resource rent tax, and millions of dollars in rates to Wellington Shire Council.
Regarding Esso’s maintenance contract with UGL, Esso has always maintained the specific rates of pay and conditions of employment were a matter between UGL and its employees.