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Australian Federal Court Orders LNG Workers to Halt Protest

Union workers in Australia who disrupted construction at the site of more than $60 billion in natural gas export projects were ordered to stop their strike, according to contractor Bechtel Group Inc.

Australia’s federal court last night granted an injunction against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and 72 workers, San Francisco-based Bechtel said today in an e-mail response to questions. The contractor won’t agree to union demands to immediately reduce the number of weeks fly-in, fly-out employees work for every week off.

The dispute with the unions has raised concern over delays to the start of the liquefied natural gas projects being built on the nation’s northeast coast by BG Group Plc, Santos Ltd. and ConocoPhillips. BG’s Queensland Curtis LNG venture is scheduled to begin later this year, with the two other developments targeting a 2015 startup.

“You don’t have a lot of time to catch up,” Andrew Williams, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Melbourne, said today by phone. “Right now the critical thing for these projects is keeping to that timing. The one most at risk obviously is QCLNG,” he said, referring to BG’s project.

Origin Energy Ltd., ConocoPhillips’s partner in Australia, rose 0.8 percent today to close at A$13.92 in Sydney trading, and Santos rose 0.1 percent to A$14.26. Australia’s benchmark index declined 0.3 percent.

A call to the CFMEU’s office in Queensland wasn’t immediately returned. A message left on the federal court’s media line wasn’t immediately returned.

Union workers this week are voting on a revised labor proposal that includes a 13 percent pay increase, extra daily allowances and changes to the roster in the future to three weeks on and one week off, compared with four weeks currently, according to Bechtel.

Bechtel asked for the injunction because union members weren’t complying with the Fair Work Commission’s decision that industrial action should stop, the contractor said.

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