Farstad digs in on fight with MUA

By: Paul Howell

The marine vessel operator says it will not back down on rostering arrangements, as the union wraps up a 24-hour strike.

Farstad digs in on fight with MUA
The Maritime Union of Australia finished a 24-hour strike at Farstad today.


The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) finished up a 24-hour strike at marine vessel operator Farstad this morning, but the two parties still look no closer to an agreement on rosters.

The union, which represents 37 per cent of workers on the 24-vessel operation in north Western Australia, is demanding a move to a four-weeks-on four-weeks-off roster, rather than the five weeks-on and five weeks-off roster currently in operation.

The strike affected work at the Chevron Australia Whetstone liquid natural gas project in north WA, as well as other offshore worksites in the region. It had been planned as a four-day action, but was cut down to a single 24-hour protected strike by the Fair Work Commission last week.

That strike went ahead from 4am on Tuesday.

Farstad says it has "drawn a line in the sand" and won’t concede on the maintenance of the five week roster.

"The changes would create untenable annual operational expenses of nearly $3 million dollars to cover payment for extra non-productive travel days and travel costs," the company says.

"In addition there would be extra fuel, pilotage and port costs resulting in a combined total cost of up to about $400,000 per vessel [per year] for Farstad and its clients."

Farstad Asia-Pacific executive vice president Wayne Aitken says mariners working for the company are well remunerated and rewarded and receive lengthy breaks to be with their families.

The MUA says the five-week roster increases the risk of mental health issues among remote fly-in fly-out workers.

"Farstad refuse to change the current roster from five-weeks-on, five-weeks-off to the more family-friendly industry standard of four-weeks-on, four-off," MUA WA branch assistant secretary Will Tracey says.

"While we have been happy to negotiate over wages, the mental health of our members is not something we are willing to negotiate over."

The MUA represents 37 per cent of the cooks, stewards and seafarers working on Farstad’s fleet. It is not clear which other employers use a four-week rostering system, but Aitken warns that this will mean more travel, and less total family time for staff.

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