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Chevron's Gorgon gas extraction meet with labour unions' opposition, Australia


Chevron is deeply involved with natural gas projects in both Australia and New Zealand. Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members say they’ve been treated unfairly at Chevron’s massive Gorgon project, located off the country’s northwest shore. Chevron intends to collect gas from offshore wells then liquefy the product on Barrow’s Island for export using giant LNG tankers. The effort was first estimated to cost $37 billion but exploded to $54 billion because of cost overruns.  In May 2015, docker union leaders from around the world met in Perth, Australia for a strategy meeting that included a protest against Chevron for failing to respect workers’ rights in Western Australia. Autralian and New Zealand's trade unions joint in a protest (called by the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)) to alert the New Zealand public to the poor practices of Chevron, that have led to major disputes in the Australian offshore oil and gas industry and around the world. According to the trade unions, instead of cooperating with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Chevron has refused to respect longstanding union contract standards and filed a $20 million lawsuit against MUA members over a health and safety dispute. The Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) presented a letter to New Zealand consulate officials to explain workers' concerns about Chevron.

“We support responsible drilling with high safety standards, but we don’t support companies that have an antiworker agenda and bad environmental record.” said its president [1]. The unions are also demanding multinational mining companies like Chevron end the practise of importing cheap labour under temporary working visas.[3] Despite the mobilization the project went on. In December 2015, Chevron signed a non-binding agreement with China Huadian Green Energy for the delivery of up to 1 million metric tons of LNG per year over 10 years, starting in 2020. China is expected to become the largest importer of energy in the world by 2035.

The LNG move for Chevron comes as energy companies are on the decline because energy prices are lower in an oversupplied market. The company reported a loss of $588 million for the fourth quarter, compared with year-on-year earnings of $3.5 billion [4].  The Asutralian government is full swing supporting the expansion of the gas sector. In April 2016, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull opened the LNG 18 Conference in Perth; he touched on topics from the jobs that the LNG boom created across Australia to the role the Trans Pacific Partnership will play in the global energy market. Mr Turnbull made sure to point out the important role gas has to play in a clean energy future. Here are his words: “Gas, which can produce 50 per cent less emissions than a typical coal-fired power plant, has a pivotal role to play in delivering energy with lower carbon emissions, making it a key contributor to global carbon abatement. It is also critical fuel stock for peak energy demand,” “We need to support the transition to renewables by providing peaking power and fill the gap from intermittent renewables when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. “It is all part of our broader aim to ensure our energy security into the future." [5].

Basic Data

NameChevron's Gorgon gas extraction meet with labour unions' opposition, Australia
ProvinceWestern Australia
SiteBarrow Island
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesNatural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe Gorgon Project is one of the world's largest natural gas projects, with a total production capacity of about 2.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 20,000 barrels of condensate per day (according to Chevron [2]
Level of Investment (in USD)54,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Company Names or State Enterprises from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersTrade Unions like Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF)

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Trade unions
Maori workers
Forms of MobilizationOfficial complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches


Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherUnfair treatment of migrant labour


Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseTransnational solidarity actions among trade unions
Development of AlternativesLabour rights to be granted, collective agreements
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Australia has gone full swing into expansion of the gas sector, which is dominated by large energy multinationals and locked in free trade agreements. Changing this pattern of the energy model is becoming tougher, and it's quite unlikely that under this model labour rights will be respected.

Sources and Materials


[3] Autralianmining. com. au - Thousands of angry workers march on Chevron

Maori Television - Protestors against Chevron take concerns to NZ consulate in Perth, Wednesday 13 May 2015

[4] UPI, Chevron starts mega-LNG project in Australia, March 2016

[5] Pipeliner - Prime Minister states the case for gas, April 2016

[1] ILWU leaders join protest in Perth against Chevron projects

[2] - Gorgon project

Media Links

International Transport Workers Federation - Chevron Protest, by Maritime Union of Australia

Protestors against Chevron take concerns to NZ consulate in Perth (in Maori)

Other Documents

ILWU protest, May 12 in Perth ILWU International President Robert McEllrath joined a protest against Chevron on May 12 in Perth, Australia.

Meta Information

ContributorDaniela Del Bene, ICTA-UAB
Last update15/03/2018



ILWU protest, May 12 in Perth

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath joined a protest against Chevron on May 12 in Perth, Australia.