Esso’s lack of asbestos transparency sparks union uproar

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

Australia’s construction unions say a lack of transparency is putting workers’ lives at risk over planned asbestos removal at several retired oil and gas platforms.

Tensions heated up this week between energy giant Esso and Australia’s Building Industry Group of Unions (BIG), comprised of the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Plumbing and Pipe Trades Employees Union (PPTEU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), over details surrounding the asbestos removal at the Bass Strait based platforms.

Esso is scheduled to start decommissioning the 12 platforms and equipment sometime in 2027, with high levels of the deadly outlawed building material found at the site.

CFMEU calls out Esso for lack of transparency

However, the CFMEU has called out the energy juggernaut after they refused to release their contractor shortlist for the job or provide any details surrounding the removal of substances.

Meanwhile, union members are also concerned that All Seas, a company that has previously attempted to bring foreign labour to work on Australian ships, has been awarded the contract for the heavy lift component of the decommissioning.

CFMEU National Secretary Christy Cain called on Esso to provide unions with their shortlist and removal plan so Aussie workers can be confident their safety will be maintained during work.

“This mob should be held to account for their lack of transparency and should work with the union to ensure the safety of workers on the job is paramount,” he said.

“Esso is failing its obligation to be open and transparent about the process, which is appalling given these platforms are full of asbestos.”

“The company must urgently provide detailed information about the asbestos removal, including where it’s located and how much there is, so we don’t risk workers’ dying from horrific diseases.”

Asbestos still one Australia’s biggest avoidable killers despite ban

Despite being outlawed in late 2003, the hazardous building material still leads to the death of more than 4000 Aussies every year – more than double the nation’s annual road toll.

This week alone, another 77 Australians will die as a result of preventable asbestos-related illnesses.

Those numbers are set to continue for quite a while, with some dust diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, asbestos-related pleural disease and even lung cancer developing up to 60-years later in life as a result of asbestos exposure.

Christy Cain says those heartbreaking figures should be enough for Esso to want to prove it’s doing everything in its power to put worker safety first.

“We need absolute confidence the asbestos removal contractor is a reputable operator with the highest safety standards,” he said.

“We have had enough deaths due to asbestos and related diseases over the years, and we as a union will do everything we possibly can to ensure this project is safe for not just our workforce but all workers.”

“Every year, 4000 people die of asbestos-related diseases. We will have zero tolerance for any employer, including Esso and All Seas, that wants to cut corners on these jobs.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.