Cuts being made across the offshore oil industry as a result of the falling oil price will compromise safety and lose key skills to the UK, the UK’s biggest union, Unite, will stress today (Sunday 1 February) amid mounting fears that the seeds of another disaster on the scale of Piper Alpha could well be being sown with this downturn.
The union will call for urgent action to safeguard the sector at the oil and gas industry summit taking place in Aberdeen today, hosted by the city council and attended by leading figures from across the industry and the both the Scottish and Westminster governments.
With oil companies set to reduce spending on investment and exploration by $170 billion (37 per cent of spend) by 2017, Unite is calling upon the UK government to step in with much-needed support for the sector to help ensure that safety standards are upheld while the industry endures a period of considerable uncertainty.
Unite’s regional officer John Taylor, a speaker at the summit said ahead of the event: “The rush by firms to cut jobs and reduce costs is placing enormous pressure on the remaining workforce, and is harming the industry’s reputation.
“Unless something is done soon to stem the flow of job losses, key skills will be lost. Our worst fear is that these cuts could create the potential for another health and safety disaster on the scale of Piper Alpha.
“We are seeing already that in the shift to working three weeks on followed by three weeks off in an intensely harsh and demanding environment is taking its toll on workers. The climate of cost-cutting that is descending is not consistent with maximum public and worker safety.”
Unite is critical of the industry’s failure to set aside money from their considerable profits for times such as these but says that government intervention is justified:
“The oil industry employs around 450,000 people across the UK with around 130,000 employed in Scotland, and has contributed greatly to the national wealth for generations. But now the sector is facing a crisis following the dramatic fall in oil prices and a downturn in demand, these workers now need action, not blame-apportioning.
“We are losing vital, world class skills so we are urging the national government to do as they have done for previous important sectors and provide financial assistance,” John Taylor added.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon will also be speaking at the summit.
For further information, please contact Unite press office on 020 3371 2065. To speak with John Taylor call 07810 157 919.
Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.