Strike action on North Sea oil platforms moved a step closer today as talks over pay, proposed cuts and changes to working conditions by the Wood Group broke down.
Wood Group is proposing pay cuts of up to 22 per cent, though once cuts to other allowances are added this rises to a 30 per cent cut.
Unite, the leading union for offshore workers, said it will now prepare to ballot several hundred members working for Wood Group on eight of Shell’s North Sea oil and gas platforms.
The dispute – raised under the OCA (Offshore Contractors’ Association) agreement – was confirmed after union representatives met Wood Group management today (Friday 27 May).
The proposed pay cut comes on top of cuts to holiday pay and training rates, while recent changes have also seen workers move to a three-week working cycle. Also a level 2 Maintenance Technician now earns 6.9 per cent less per offshore day due to the changes to holiday pay.
Having been unable to convince the employers to think again on the implications of the intended cutbacks, Unite members through their shop stewards have now formally rejected the new proposals put to them today.
In recent months union leaders have raised concerns over continuing reductions in the workforce coupled with more demanding shift patterns in a notoriously dangerous industry.
Unite has accused bosses of opportunistic cuts to pay, and terms and conditions which make it impossible for rigorous health and safety standards to be maintained industry-wide.
John Boland Unite regional officer said: “Our members are simply not being heard by Wood Group. They are deeply worried and frustrated and feel that they have no other option now but to consider strike action.
“Nobody here wants to take industrial action but Wood Group is being unreasonable - pay cuts of up to 30 per cent are totally unjustified and we won’t stand for it.
“Our members have already given a lot of ground because we understand that with a low oil price the companies had to make changes to maintain profitability.
“For the benefit of the North Sea as a whole we must not to roll over again. This is our only opportunity to stay strong and say no, not just for us but for the whole of the North Sea.
"We have done our best to find a negotiated way forward through discussion. We well understand the pressures the sector is under, but workers are being stretched beyond the limit in what is one of the most dangerous working environments on the planet.
“Unite will defend and protect our members every step of the way. Sadly, we are being forced to raise a dispute and proceed to a ballot on industrial action because members have simply had enough of not being listened to.
“There is real despair in the workforce and a feeling that employers are responding to the current downturn by slashing terms and conditions.
“Wood Group has failed to listen and failed to address these concerns. However, there is still time for them to think again and get back round the table with us so we can find a solution.”
Unite Scotland has been calling on the industry to redouble its efforts to tackle its challenges by properly engaging with workers and their trade unions, through a summit involving all stakeholders.
For more information please contact: Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869 or Unite regional officer John Boland, on 07918 630 435.
Notes to editors:
In March nearly 95 per cent of union members voted in a consultative ballot in favour of proceeding to an industrial action ballot.
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.