IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in the oil and gas sectors from Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore met in Taipei on 26-27 August 2016 to create a regional union network in Asia Pacific region.
The network was hosted by the Taiwanese Petroleum Workers’ Union (TPWU), and aims to improve communication among the participating unions for effective cooperation and international solidarity. The delegates identified the main challenges for oil and gas unions, such as privatization, liberalization and the anti-union behaviour of oil companies.
The meeting heard from the host union that energy is the cornerstone of Taiwan's economic development, and with the development of economic activities, energy supply and demand in the country has gradually increased. In energy and power supply the share of fossil energy sources, such as oil, is still very high, and the impact of energy policies on the oil sector is and will continue to be enormous.
Under the policies of privatization and market liberalization in many countries, trade union organizations face a variety of challenges, such as maintaining existing employment relations, working conditions and labour relations.
In Japan, liquified natural gas, which is moslty imported, is supplied through a network of pipes to customers for household, business, and industrial use, after gasifying, adjusting caloric values, and odorizing. 203 companies operate community-based businesses, and 50% of the total length of city gas piping is owned by three major gas companies (Tokyo, Osaka, Toho). The monopolistic supply to small users such as households in licensed regions which will be fully liberalized in April 2017. In Japan, 84% of employees working in gas companies are members of trade unions.
Outsourcing and precarious work were identified as challenges for unions. In Indonesia, for example, major companies such as Pertamina and Chevron have outsourced 80% of their services. This creates problems like poor working conditions, lack of proper health and safety, weakened unions unable to defend workers’ interests. When this is coupled with widespread in-house unionism, problems become harder throughout the country.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said: “We all must take action accordingly to build union power in this critical sector to improve working conditions, freedom of association and a collective bargaining system versus the power kept by national and multinational oil companies.”
“This new network will be an important tool for all our affiliates in the coming period.”
At the end of the meeting, the participants adopted an action plan, which includes regular communication, exchanging information and promoting international solidarity.
The network elected Chueh-An Chuang, president of the TPWU, as Chair.
The day after the meeting, the participants visited the Taoyuan refinery, which has a crude topping capacity of 200,000 barrels per day to supply the demand on gasoline, diesel, aviation, fuel and liquified petroleum gas for northern Taiwan. The plant produces different types of low-sulfur oil, propylene, asphalt and sulfur. It has an offshore operations subsection and Shalung storage subsection to take charge of unloading and storing crude oil for refining. For receiving imported crude oil, there are two mooring buoys five kilometres offshore, along with some subsea transmission pipelines at Shalung terminal, which is 16 km north of the refinery.