Aerial View of Curtis Island, LNG sites. Gladstone.
Aerial View of Curtis Island, LNG sites. Gladstone. Brenda Strong

Bechtel under fire from unions

THE Electrical Trade Union is demanding an investigation of Bechtel over its handling of an asbestos scare on Curtis Island.

The issue became public on Friday when it emerged the company was dealing with two container switch rooms that had asbestos in their structures.

Bechtel said the substance came on site without its knowledge and it had prioritised the safety of workers.

ETU state secretary Peter Simpson slammed Bechtel for what he described as a "serious breach of health and safety".

"This is either a monumental process failure by this multinational company or a deliberate cover up," Mr Simpson said.

"Either way their actions have exposed our members to a deadly toxin."

Bechtel Gladstone general manager Kevin Berg yesterday stood by his previous statements.

"We have two asbestos experts working with us," Mr Berg said.

"One of them has told our staff that the results of his testing confirmed that very minimal risk can be associated with the exposure to the material in the buildings."

The ETU did not hold back in its attack on bechtel yesterday. It is is also seeking action over its claim Bechtel withheld wages from ETU members who downed tools last week seeking answers.

- Read the ETU's full statement here

Mr Berg reiterated last weeks statement that the affected equipment had been secured and no workers will be able to access it untill the company is satisfied with the safetly of the situation.

The two switchrooms, which are set up within containers, were manufactured in Indonesia and imported by Metito, which recently won contracts with Bechtel to design, build and supervise the installation of seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants and sewage treatment plants to be used for construction sites on Curtis Island at GLNG and Australia Pacific LNG.

Mr Berg last week countered the union's clam Bechtel was not prioritising on Australian contractors. "A statement by the State Government last week highlighted that some 80% of the contracts and 83% of subcontracts for just two of the LNG jobs have gone to Australian and Queensland suppliers," he said.

"It also said that just two of the Curtis Island LNG companies have spent in excess of $11 billlion with Australian suppliers - $6.2 billion with Queensland companies."

Regarding the Union's claim Bechtel was overlooking local workers, Mr Berg said: "The Bechtel Gladstone workforce is made up of 51% local, 45% Queenslanders or Australians and 4% international Bechtel professionals who have relocated to oversee work for customers."

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