Beautiful scene at Kyeemagh this morning - heaps of whiting!
The AWU Scandal is up with the worst protection rackets, extortion scheme and standover tactics of all time

Bruce Wilson was back in Woodside's good books by 1992 - but what about Woodside's competitors?

This article in BRW published in October, 1992 records Wilson's making up with Woodside.

BACK ON DECK, NICHOLAS WAY, BRW, 2 October 1992, page 12

Woodside Petroleum has agreed to lift the ban that prevented the state secretary of the WA branch of the Australian Workers Union, Bruce Wilson from visiting theNorth Rankin gas platform. The AWU was told in 1987 that Wilson would not be allowed to return to the platform after he led the industrial action at North Rankinthat culminated in management being ordered off the platform. According to the company, that action was an act of piracy under maritime law and for the past five years Woodside has threatened to take civil action against Wilson if he attempted to return to Rankin. The company said this week that relations with the AWU had been "normalised" after a "personal agreement" had been thrashed out between Wilsonand the company, with the help of the president of the Industrial Relations Commission, Justice Barry Maddern.

Justice Maddern's biographical notes are here.

Justice Barry Maddern was born in Geelong in 1937. His career began as an industrial advocate in the oil refining industry. He studied law at the University of Melbourne, and in 1966 he was admitted to the Victorian Bar.

From 1967 to 1980 Maddern was an industrial advocate, first as a barrister and later as an independent advocate for the National Employees Policy Committee and various employer organisations. He was Deputy-President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission from 1980 to 1985, and President from 1985 to 1989. In 1989 he was appointed president of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, a position he held until his death. In 1992 Maddern was awarded The Order of Australia, Companion in the General Division (AC).

Barry Maddern died in Melbourne in January 1994.

It's interesting to note that Wilson's reconciliation with Woodside happened while he was State Secretary of the AWU in Victoria rather than WA. 

By late 1994 Wilson's deal with Woodside was very sweet indeed, with $19,500 per quarter for a "rep" onsite and various airfares covered for Wilson by the company.

This extract is from Murray Hogarth's piece in the SMH of 30 July 1996.

Woodside, for example, has since told the AWU national office it had an "arrangement" to pay about $19,500 a quarter to have a union organiser "servicing" its liquid petroleum gas project at Karratha, near the North-West Shelf, and to cover some air fares for Mr Wilson.

$19,500 per quarter (plus airfares) to Bruce Wilson's slush fund appeared to coincide with some industrial peace and quiet for Woodside.

This link will take you to our post on Wayne Hem's statutory declaration describing the receipt and banking of those cheques, including the pay-in slips.

This diary note was made by Ian Cambridge in September, 1995 after speaking with an AWU organiser who had worked for Wilson, Helmut Gries.

It refers to payments for Ms Gillard's renovations - however note the 2nd paragraph and the reference to P and O.

Cambridge helmut gries


In the context of Woodside paying Wilson $19,500 per quarter into an AWU slush fund (plus airfares) it's interesting to examine the protracted industrial dispute affecting another operator in the offshore oil and gas industry - Esso whose platforms were serviced by P and O.

P and O had the contract for cleaning, cooking and other maintenance services to Esso's Bass Strait offshore rigs.   Its workers were covered by an AWU Award.   On the face of it, this was a protracted and apparently difficult to justify dispute.   And oil and gas platforms are very, very expensive operations.

The Industrial Relations Commission's Senior Deputy President POLITES:



notification of alleged breach of bans clause  

                P & O Catering and Services Pty Ltd                 



                 The AWU - FIME Amalgamated Union

                       (C No. 32235 of 1995)




                     (ODN C No. 02934 of 1982)

                    [Print G1192 [A0134 V005]]

This  is  a  notification  pursuant to  s.181  of  the Industrial Relations Act 1988 (the Act) by P & O Catering and Services  Pty Ltd (P & O Catering) of breaches and likely breaches of clause  5A - Prohibition of Bans, Limitations and Restrictions on Work of the Australian Workers'  Union  - Offshore Platform   Camp   Staff (Consolidated) Award 1984.

These are a few paragraphs from the company's submission to the Commission:


Bans have been in place since 30th December,1994 and are unfairly affecting the business of the employer yet are not serving any useful purpose in terms of bringing the parties to an agreed position. 

   10. Stopwork meetings or refusals to attend for duty involving           members of the Union have been held on these days in 1995:


          4 and 16 January

           13 February

          6 and 7 March

          3, 4, 5, 6 April


   11. From the beginning of January bans have been implemented by the Union and its members. 

       The bans are:- 

       A refusal to work overtime including when held over due to               weather.

       A refusal by campstaff to work out of their classification.

       No multi skilling.

       A refusal by Chef Supervisors to do ordering, including milk


       A refusal to unload food containers.

       A refusal to unload food from helicopters.

       A refusal to answer telephones.

       A refusal to cancel production alarms.

       A refusal by Camp Attendants on night shift to cook and serve      meals.


The court records are somewhat complex - but there is no mistaking this, McDonald C refers to a Commissioner McDonald of the AIRC who presided over earlier hearings in the dispute:



Subsequently McDonald C received a communication dated 2 May 1995 under the  hand of Bruce  Wilson, Secretary, National Construction Branch of the AWU - FIME:

"The Union wishes to inform you that Mass Meetings of P. &O.  Catering and Services employees have resolved toaccept the proposal made by Deputy President Polites [sic]on the 19th April, 1995.  To keep the Commission fully informed, the resolutions as  passed are listed in detail on the attached document.

The court records continue with a lot of words from Bruce Wilson - he advises the Commission about various things that are subject to this and will happen if that happens etc.


The Commission records that on 9 May,1995 the Commission received the following  letter from Australian Mines and Metals Association Inc. on behalf of P & O Catering: 

"Further to my letter dated 3 May, I write to you again in  relation to the proceedings identified as C No. 32235 of  1995, being the notification of P & O Catering and Services Pty. Ltd. pursuant  to Section 181 of the Industrial Relations  Act,  in relation to conduct in breach of bans clause.


 The  attached  material faxed to the Australian IndustrialRelations Commission over the names of Mr.Bruce Wilson(Secretary, National Construction Branch)and Mr H.Gries is  open to a variety of interpretations.

 It is the experience of the Company that most, if not all of the bans remain in force. It appears that even the suggestedpreparedness to work overtime due to weather or helicopterbreakdowns,requires endorsement at a future `mass  meeting'- item(b)  of  the  resolution. Other issues are  targeted  for future action - item (d).

 In these circumstances, the Company asks that the  matter beforeyou be  urgently resisted at any time  and  place  for report back, and for further proceedings under Division 2 of Part VIIIof the Industrial Relations Act."


In circumstances where companies were making large and unexplained payments to an account that carried the AWU's name but was controlled  by Wilson, it's worth a very close look, the sort of close look that only a Royal Commission can provide.