STRIKE action by members of the Maritime Union of Australia against Farstad Shipping over demands for a change to rosters took place on 18 November.

Appealing to the Fair Work Commission, the MUA won the right to a 24 hour strike after marine vessel operator Farstad refused the MUA’s campaign for a change which would see workers employed for four weeks on, four weeks off, instead of the current five weeks on, five weeks off.

Participating in the strike action as part of a campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement were almost 300 cooks, stewards and seafarers across 25 of the company’s offshore oil and gas service vessels operating in Australian waters.

The MUA has been negotiating an enterprise bargaining agreement with Farstad for almost two years, after the previous EBA expired in June 2013.

In a statement, the MUA said its members received their last pay rise in July 2012, with family friendly rosters their main concern.

MUA Western Australia branch assistant secretary Will Tracey said the negotiations had taken place for a long time.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that family friendly rosters are becoming more important, the longer these projects go for and the more time workers spend away from their families,” he said.

Farstad said the proposed roster changes would create annual operational expenses of almost $3 million to cover payment for extra non-productive travel days and travel costs.

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.

With only 37 per cent of Farstad employees being MUA members, Farstad Asia Pacific executive vice president Wayne Aitken said the demands came at the end of the negotiation process for a new agreement.

“We can’t and won’t budge on the roster matter,” he said.

Oil & Gas Australia understood the matter was unresolved at the time of going to press.