In a piece of news this week that has left us feeling a little slimy, we saw foreign-owned oil giants Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and BP collectively doubled their multi-million-dollar profits from last year.
Half-yearly profits for all companies together had almost doubled to $55.2 billion (USD) up from $28.7 billion (USD) for the same period last year.
Despite the fact it is workers’ labour that has led to such high figures, they are not given fair share of the benefit. In fact, corporate profiteering has fuelled the cost-of-living crisis for workers in Australia.
Huge corporations have chosen to pass on costs to customers rather than absorb them. In a similar fashion, the big oil and gas companies booked super windfall profits while Australian taxpayers have subsidised the bowser price of petrol. The vast majority of these profits head off-shore to overseas billionaires and hedge-funds.
The reality is that the CEOs and senior executives of these foreign oil giants have never had our backs. They have spent decades undermining the best interests of workers and profiting from Australia’s natural resources.
It is thanks to workers in unions that we have achieved progress on climate action, not big corporations.
And it is also thanks to union members’ hard campaigning work that we’ve seen wage increases.
BP worker Scott Tracey was sacked in 2018 after using a meme to poke fun at BP bosses for not supporting workers’ pay demands during agreement negotiations.
The company dug in and dragged Tracey through nearly two years of stressful law courts.
The Australian Workers’ Union was at his side all the way and not only covered his legal costs (around a $100k worth) but also won him compensation to the tune of more than $200k.
And yet still we see, once again, CEOs have chosen to increase their own massive pay packets rather than support workers’ pay rises they can well and truly afford.
Despite all their attempts to mislead and misdirect, these corporate executives can’t deny the evidence that shows just how far workers’ wages have fallen behind profits.
We can see the true face of these mega-companies in the way they treat their workforce. Oil giant Shell has shown slippery behaviour with its own workers employed on the Prelude offshore facility.
Employees there have been taking industrial action for the past 53 days in pursuit of job security and career progression claims after 18 months of fruitless negotiations.
Instead of negotiating a fair outcome with its workers and their unions, Shell has threatened workers with a lockout and has refused to negotiate since 13 July.
We stand up for workers’ rights together
This is far from the first time we have seen irresponsible behaviour from these gigantic oil companies. But that’s why being a union member is so important. It takes collective action to let CEOs know they can’t get away with mistreating workers.
It wasn’t too long ago that Esso – whose parent company is Exxon Mobil – tried and failed to dupe maintenance workers into signing contracts that would slash their wages.
What resulted was one of the longest protests in Australian modern history as members across the union movement showed up to support the workers.
After 742 days of workers refusing to give in, the dispute ended with a union-backed deal. Union members showed their around-the-clock dedication for two years had paid off.
We have stood our ground before and we know we can do it again. Because at the end of the day, it’s about getting a fair deal for all workers. No one should be left behind.