Mariner platform; Credit: Jamie Baikie/Equinor

Equinor pens deal to enhance working conditions for North Sea workers

As strike action looms over the offshore platforms on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS), the UK’s Unite the union has inked – what it describes as – a recognition deal with Equinor Production UK Limited, a subsidiary of Norway’s state-owned energy giant Equinor, for multiple workers employed on the operator’s offshore facilities at a field in the UK sector of the North Sea.

Mariner platform; Credit: Jamie Baikie/Equinor

According to Unite, the recently negotiated voluntary agreement with Equinor covers around 70 workers on the company’s Mariner field facilities, which entail the Mariner A production, drilling, and living quarters (PDQ) platform based on a steel jacket and the Mariner B floating storage unit (FSU).

The final investment decision for the project was made in 2012. The field, which is located in UK Block 9/11a in the northern North Sea about 150 km east of the Shetland Islands, was the energy giant’s first operated development in the UK North Sea when it came on stream in August 2019.

Sharon Graham, Unite the union’s General Secretary, commented: “Offshore workers are increasingly turning to Unite for representation because they know we deliver the goods. The deal with Equinor is the latest example that demonstrates why Unite is the UK’s leading offshore union because we are winning the fight to improve jobs, pay and conditions.”

The recognition agreement between Unite and Equinor – encompassing various job roles at the Mariner facilities such as controllers, electrical, mechanical, instrument, and production technicians – comes after more than 100 offshore drillers and members of the UK union, which are employed by Odfjell Technology, decided to call off the previously announced industrial action and a continuous overtime ban.

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John Boland, Unite the union’s Industrial Officer, said: “The recognition agreement signed with Equinor covering workers on its Mariner platforms is another major step forward for Unite in the oil and gas industry. Over the last few months, we have negotiated agreements which will improve the working conditions for thousands of offshore workers.”

The latest deal with Equinor follows Unite’s previous announcement in December 2023 that it had signed a similar agreement with Repsol Resources, covering around 350 offshore workers. The union now has recognition agreements with Equinor, Repsol Resources, Total Energies, and CNOOC.

“We believe this deal is another positive signal to the industry that Unite wants to work constructively with operators where we can, while always standing up for the jobs, pay and conditions of our members,” added Boland.

Currently, Unite is involved in a series of disputes as its offshore members fight for a better work and life balance, including ongoing industrial action ballots involving chemists, heating, and ventilation engineers employed by IES Callenberg and SGS UK Limited.

According to the UK union, its offshore members are increasingly recording concerns over physical and mental burnout, fatigue, and stress due to staff shortages.

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Many offshore workers not only work 12-hour shifts for three weeks at a time but also need to conduct any required training during their field breaks.