More than half of offshore workers say industry’s futu...

More than half of offshore workers say industry’s future in doubt without government help

21 November 2016

More than half of offshore workers believe the future of the oil and gas sector is in doubt without government help. 

A survey carried out among nearly 800 offshore workers by Unite the union found that 55 per cent saw a future for the sector – but only if there is intervention by government. Some 24 per cent said they could see no future for the offshore sector at all. 

Just over 95 per cent of workers said that the Scottish and UK Governments are not doing enough to support the offshore sector. And nearly 90 per cent agreed with Unite’s call for the Scottish and UK Governments to buy stakes in offshore infrastructure – like pipelines or platforms.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The message from our members and other offshore workers in this survey is clear – unless government starts to come up with some new thinking for the oil and gas industry, the future is looking very bleak.

“We have made repeated calls for a summit to bring together energy companies, trade unions, the Scottish Government and the UK Government, so that we can start planning for the future. It’s never happened, and we just can’t understand why.

“We have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government and the UK Government to consider using their borrowing powers to take out public stakes in new offshore infrastructure, and to help protect existing infrastructure that might otherwise be decommissioned. 

“We believe public stakes would encourage companies to also invest, supporting jobs, and creating returns for the public purse in the future. 

“We are in the middle of a crisis, and unless there is action soon we could be approaching a point of no return. That would be devastating for the Scottish economy, particularly in the north east.

“Offshore workers are the people worst affected by this crisis – with attacks on their working conditions and as many as 120,000 jobs in the industry and wider economy forecast to be lost by the end of this year.

“Our members are clear – to protect their livelihoods and skills we need government action now.”

Some 60 per cent of workers in the survey have been in the industry for more than 10 years, and 35 per cent for over 20 years.

Pat Rafferty said: “These are workers who have seen the peaks and troughs of the industry over the years. When experienced people like that say they fear for the future, we should all listen.” 

Earlier this month, North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald put down a Scottish Parliament motion calling on the Scottish Government to facilitate discussions with the UK Government, industry and trade unions to create a plan for co-investment in the offshore industry. The motion has now obtained cross-party support.

Unite says that research published last month by the Oil & Gas Authority shows potential for a new lease of life for the industry, with an estimated equivalent of three billion barrels of oil in untapped small pools around the shores of Scotland.

The survey also found that 83 per cent of workers had seen a reduction in skilled personnel, which has created issues around productivity and the ability to perform work tasks. 

Pat Rafferty said: “This is an incredibly worrying finding. Energy companies have to realise that they can’t prop up their profits - or create a sustainable industry - by slashing the jobs of the skilled workers who are the bedrock of their success.

“Energy companies need to work with their staff to build for the future. We cannot simply have a race to the bottom.”


Notes to editors

For more information contact Unite Scotland press officer David Eyre on 07960 451631 /

Unite’s survey was completed by a total of 779 offshore workers. Some 93 per cent were members of Unite.

More details of the survey results can be found in a Powerpoint presentation here:

More information about the recent Oil & Gas Authority report on the opportunity of small pools around Scotland can be found on their website here:

Industry body Oil & Gas UK estimated that jobs supported by the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry will have fallen by the end of 2016 by an estimated 120,000 since their peak in 2014:

Here is the text of Motion S5M-02310 in the name of Lewis Macdonald MSP: 

“That the Parliament notes that the number of jobs lost as a result of the downturn in the UK oil and gas sector could be above 120,000 by the end of 2016; agrees that the sector is of vital economic interest and cannot be left exclusively to market forces; agrees that the sector needs to have confidence that it can invest for the future; supports the use of Scottish and UK government borrowing powers to leverage money into the sector, including active consideration of strategic public stakes in infrastructure investment; and calls on the Scottish Government to facilitate and take part in discussions with the UK Government, industry and trade unions to create a plan for co-investment that will support jobs, increase confidence and create returns to the public sector.”

Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with 150,000 members across the economy. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.