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Striking Woodside Workers Set to Return to Pluto Site Tomorrow

BLOOMBERG

By Jason Scott

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) — Woodside Petroleum Ltd. said striking workers building the A$12 billion ($11 billion) Pluto liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia should return to work tomorrow after a two-day strike.

“We presume they will be going back to work tomorrow after their 48-hour strike,” Roger Martin, a company spokesman, said by phone in Perth today. Between 1,600 and 1,800 workers are believed to be involved, and the action shouldn’t have any long- term impact on the project or Woodside, he said.

The Pluto project is more than 80 percent complete and scheduled to start exporting LNG in 2011, seeking to tap Asian demand for cleaner-burning fuels. Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer last month said the cost of the project is set to jump by as much as A$1.1 billion, partly because of higher- than-expected labor costs.

Workers at the Gap Ridge Village at Karratha, in the Pilbara region and about 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) north of Perth, are protesting against a system that would see them change accommodation every month instead of getting their own permanent self-contained units, known as dongas, union officials have said.

“This has been driven by the workers, not the unions,” Rob Mitchell, spokesman for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said today. “It’s not a materialistic issue, it’s a humanitarian issue.”

The workers will return to work tomorrow, Mitchell said, without specifying a time. He didn’t know if other meetings or industrial action would be planned.

Woodside shares closed 1 percent higher at A$49.80 in Sydney today, compared with the 0.92 percent gain in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index. Royal Dutch Shell Plc owns 32 percent of Woodside.

To contact the reporter on this story Jason Scott in Perth at [email protected]

Last Updated: December 2, 2009 00:31 EST

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