AWU leads takedown of second dodgy offshore maintenance EA

A full bench of the Fair Work Commission has quashed a second dodgy EA in the Offshore oil and gas sector, with the AWU successfully arguing maintenance contractor Altrad’s agreement was “lacking authenticity”.

Altrad APTS’s Agreement was voted up by just three employees, despite having broad national coverage, and approved by the Fair Work Commission in August 2021. All three employees were offered common law contracts with better terms and conditions than the EA.

This agreement is the sequel to the debacle with related entity Workforce Logistics. The sham Workforce Logistics EA was voted up by just six alleged ’employees’ – including the Director’s brother, two business partners and their relatives – before the company was sold off a few months later. The AWU’s successful appeal triggered an investigation by the Commission into whether there had been a ‘wider-scale’ abuse of the agreement-making framework.

After exposing Workforce Logistics’ sham EA, the AWU appealed the APTS agreement in September 2023, arguing that Altrad “improperly manipulated the approval of the agreement using a small unrepresentative voter cohort to secure sub-standard employment conditions” for those who would be covered by the APTS Agreement.

Altrad intended to apply the dodgy EA to maintenance workers on the Chevron oil and gas facilities – including former employees of Workforce Logistics, AusGroup Companies and subsidiaries, all now part of Altrad Group.

This would mean employees would be covered by an agreement they had no say in, voted up by workers on individual contracts with better wages and conditions – a deliberate attempt to circumvent the lawful bargaining process and force a substandard EA on its workers.

During the appeal, the AWU explained that Altrad sought “to secure a workforce available to multiple companies within the Altrad Group with conditions of employment which gave the Altrad Group entities a commercial advantage over its competitors” – essentially, offering wages and conditions below the industry standard.

The three workers who voted for the deal were told by Altrad “on multiple occasions that they did not need to worry about specific terms of the agreement because more favourable terms would be contained in their contracts of employment, which would override the agreement”. During cross-examination by the union, two of the workers admitted they would not have voted the deal up without this guarantee.

The Bench concluded that while the EA was not a sham of the kind uncovered in the Workforce Logistics case – it was “was lacking in authenticity and moral authority”, and the employees who voted the dodgy EA up had no stake in the agreement as “they were assured their existing, higher rates of pay would remain in place.”

The earlier approval of the APTS Agreement was quashed.

AWU National Secretary Paul Farrow welcomed the outcome. “It’s unacceptable how many EAs managed to sneak past the Fair Work Commission via these kind of unscrupulous or sham processes,” he says.

“The baseline marry-go-round where employees get shuffled to companies with newly approved non-union, low voter and sub-standard agreements has to stop”.

“These agreements deliberately undermine the hard-fought wages and conditions that workers and their unions have bargained for. Any employer who thinks they can avoid the fair bargaining process, be warned – the AWU is on alert.”

“We’re putting all dodgy contractors on notice that this will not be tolerated. Our members in the offshore oil and gas sector have fought too hard for better wages and conditions to have their efforts undermined by anti-worker scams.”

“Offshore Alliance members are organised and fighting back against Altrad and their dirty tactics. Altrad workers, like all workers in the offshore oil and gas sector, deserve to be covered by an enterprise agreement negotiated by the Offshore Alliance, and that’s our goal.”

/Public Release. View in full here.