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Uniting Church calls Woodside Energy to account on safety


The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, has called on Woodside Energy to investigate allegations of employees of subcontractors being sacked after reporting safety incidents at its Otway Gas Plant in Port Campbell, Victoria.

The call for a response comes after seven months of failed attempts at dialogue with the company.

The Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania holds a significant parcel of Woodside shares.  As an ethical investor, it is concerned that Woodside Energy is exhibiting apathy towards safety issues at its Port Campbell site.

“We are deeply disappointed that Woodside has refused to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations that employees of subcontractors have been sacked over reporting of safety incidents”, said Dr Mark Zirnsak, Director of Social Justice for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania.

“We are worried that if the allegations are true, employees on the site are being intimidated into not reporting safety risks.  This thereby increases the likelihood of a serious accident on the Port Campbell site.  We are aware of two employees of subcontractors who say they were sacked over safety concerns.

“One former employee alleges he was asked to falsify an incident report and has signed a statutory declaration to that effect. After he refused to do so he says he was sacked.

“Another worker alleges he was sacked on the mere suspicion that he reported a safety incident on site. Regrettably, Woodside refused to speak to either of the two former subcontractor employees directly.  They were satisfied with assurances that no one was fired because they reported safety issues."

Dr Zirnsak said, “Woodside’s response to these two cases has been inadequate.  A reasonable employer would want to talk to the people involved and take steps to address the concerns.

“We feel Woodside is not living up to its own policies and that it is not ensuring its contractors and subcontractors maintain an environment where safety issues can be freely raised by employees,” Dr Zirnsak said.

Woodside refused a request by the Uniting Church to provide data about safety incidents and accidents on the site.

The Otway Gas Plant construction site is supervised by Technip Oceania, a company contracted by Woodside.  The Synod’s Justice and International Mission Unit have undertaken many attempts at dialogue with Woodside over the last seven months.  A promised formal response from Woodside, due by January 2007, never materialised.

UCA Growth Fund Limited and Uniting Growth Fund Limited are shareholders in Woodside Energy.  The Synod Ethical Investment Policy states, “We seek to invest in companies which promote human welfare, dignity and respect and for the general good…”  The policy requires the church to take into account in its investments areas such as “human rights, occupational health and safety and environmental management.”