In a statement provided to Energy News today, union officials said that members had voted unanimously to take protected action at the giant FLNG after negotiations with a key contractor turned sour.
Protected action allows the union members to strike without legal consequences and is often a ‘last resort' effort to negotiating worker rights.
Union members will not work between 4am and 7am or between 4pm and 7pm. Further to this no hot food will be cooked and no meat will be prepared. There will also be no baking and no laundry services "until further notice".
The brawl over working conditions and pay rates for union members employed by Sodexo has been heating up for months, after the unions and the contractor failed to agree on a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.
According to the Offshore Alliance - a coalition between the Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Workers Union - Sodexo had come to the table and agreed to a new EBA, but Shell Australia management pressured the contractor to abandon the agreement.
If the unions are correct and Shell did intervene in the negotiations, those actions would be considered unlawful.
Shell Australia has refuted those accusations.
"Shell upholds the highest standards of business ethics and complies with our legal obligations. In everything we do we act fairly, honestly and transparently," a Shell Australia spokesperson told Energy News.
There was industry speculation that the unions were not going to follow through with their strike when they first announced a protected action ballot.
However a union source said any speculation that the strike was a "bluff" was "completely untrue."
Shell's Prelude FLNG, which only came online last year has been plagued by technical problems, and eventually Shell shuttered the vessel and stood down half of its crew.
Initially the unions had planned to strike across more than five offshore facilities including the Noble Tim Prosser jackup drilling rig in the Bass Strait, an unnamed small fixed platform operated by Beach Energy, and another small platform on Santos' Varanus Island west of Karratha. Workers were also to abandon duties at the Stag platform operated by Jadestone Energy. All of these strikes were related to the Sodexo EBA negotiations.
The union members are taking protected action at Shell's Prelude, because the majority of the workers covered by the Sodexo agreement are employed on the FLNG.
In a statement to Energy News today, a Sodexo spokesperson said they were "disappointed" the unions had decided to strike.
"Sodexo has been working with our employees, representatives and our clients towards a reasonable and sustainable deal which contains improved terms and conditions," the spokesperson said.
"Sodexo is considering its position with regard to managing and responding to any industrial action taken."