Unite the union today (15 September) confirmed that around 70 members working on the Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) contract for offshore contractor Petrofac will be balloted for industrial action. The Unite members involved the ballot are employed on the Ninian Central, Ninian South and Tiffany platforms. The ballot will close on 18 October.

The contract dispute relates to Petrofac in 2020 reducing wages by 10 per cent, and the company introducing one week ‘clawback’ on the workforce, which is a week extra worked without any increase in wages. The offshore contractor blamed the cuts due to the downturn in oil and gas prices, but stated the decision would be reviewed in the future.

Unite is now demanding the 10 per cent wage cut be reversed, and that the ‘clawback’ is cancelled due to the increase in oil and gas prices. The average price of one barrel of Brent crude oil (in US dollars per barrel) has risen from $18.38 in April 2020 to $70.75 in August 2021 (1).

Unite held a consultative ballot of its Petrofac membership which closed last week. This confirmed that 93 per cent of the workers were willing to take industrial action to reverse the wage cut, and the detrimental changes in contract. In May 2021, Unite also carried out a survey of its Petrofac CNR members, which revealed that 100 per cent wanted the 10 per cent cut to be reversed, and 97 per cent wanted the ‘clawback’ cancelled.

If the ballot for industrial action is successful then strike action, and action short of a strike including an overtime ban, is expected to take place from early November 2021 to late January 2022.

John Boland, Unite industrial officer, said: “Last year Petrofac on the instruction of their client Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) cut all of the wages by 10 per cent, and imposed a week’s clawback on the workforce as a result of the low oil price and Covid. As it was at the height of Covid, and people were being put on furlough, there was an understandable reaction not to fight against the cuts.

“However, most of the workforce have now had the cuts reversed including CNRs own employees, yet Petrofac workers exclusively have been left behind. We are slowly coming out of Covid and the oil price is at around $70 per barrel. Unite’s members feel rightly aggrieved at this situation, and believe that now is right time to fight to have these cuts reversed.”


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