By Lewis Jackson
SYDNEY (Reuters) -Workers at Chevron's liquefied natural gas facilities in Australia have agreed to pause planned strike action for one day, hours before they were due to begin industrial action in an ongoing dispute that has rattled gas markets.
The workers will delay strike action until 6.00 a.m. local time in Perth on Friday (2200 GMT on Thursday), two union representatives, who declined to be identified, told Reuters late on Wednesday.
Chevron confirmed the pause in an emailed statement minutes later and said unions had advised it of the roughly one-day delay.
"We will continue to work through the bargaining process as we seek outcomes that are in the interests of both employees and the company," a Chevron Australia spokesperson said.
"We will also continue to take steps to maintain safe and reliable operations in the event of disruption at our facilities," Chevron said.
The reason for the pause was not immediately clear.
Industrial action had been scheduled to begin at 1.00 a.m. local time on Thursday (1700 GMT) as ongoing disputes over pay and conditions remained unresolved.
The Dutch October natural gas contract fell as much as 7.2% to 31.45 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) after news of the pause.
Unions and Chevron have been participating in mediation talks hosted by the Fair Work Commission, Australia's industrial umpire, all this week.
"There must have been progress on the negotiations, with Chevron moving more towards the unions requests, that has seen the unions willing to allow some more time before striking," said energy analyst Saul Kavonic.
Australia is the world's biggest LNG exporter and the ongoing dispute has stoked volatility in natural gas markets, as traders worry about the risk of long-term disruption.
Chevron's Gorgon, Australia's second-largest LNG plant, and its Wheatstone operations account for more than 5% of global LNG capacity.
(Reporting by Lewis Jackson in Sydney; additional reporting by Emily Chow and Sudarshan Varadhan in Singapore. Editing by Nick Zieminski and Tony Munroe)