Mariner field in the UK North Sea; Credit: Jamie Baikie and Michal Wachucik/Equinor

Fight for ‘better’ work-life balance: Offshore drillers set their cap on three-month strike at North Sea platform

Around 100 offshore workers employed by Odfjell Technology, who are working on Equinor’s platform in the UK sector of the North Sea, have decided to embark on strike action to secure improvements to working rotas.

Mariner field in the UK North Sea; Credit: Jamie Baikie and Michal Wachucik/Equinor

According to the UK’s Unite the union, its members, which are working on Equinor’s Mariner platform, voted unanimously in favor of industrial action. With 99% in favor, Unite members also voted for a continuous overtime ban on a high turnout. The UK union explains that all deck crew is involved in the dispute.

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary, highlighted: “Odfjell drillers on the Mariner platform are ready to take their employer head-on. Unite will fully support our members in their fight for a better work and life balance. Unite is entirely focussed on enhancing the job, pay and conditions of its members and the Odfjell workers have the union’s unwavering support.”

The strike action will entail a series of 24-hour strikes taking place every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday for 12 consecutive weeks, starting on Monday, January 29, and ending on Saturday, April 20, with a continuous overtime ban in place throughout the 12-week period.

Vic Fraser, Unite Industrial Officer, underlined: “Unite has fought long and hard for an improved working rotation in the interests of safety and a better working environment. Odfjell is ignoring the serious concerns which our members are raising.”

Furthermore, Unite is reporting that its members are recording concerns over physical and mental burnout, fatigue, and stress due to staff shortages. The UK union further emphasizes that those employed by Odfjell Technology work 12-hour shifts for three weeks at a time and also need to conduct any required training during their field breaks.

“The only way that this dispute can be solved is if Odfjell discusses with Unite changes to the working rotation. Our members are resolute and they are prepared to strike over 12 weeks, until the company sees sense. The action will undoubtedly have a major impact and will in effect bring the Mariner platform to a standstill,” added Fraser.

Unite believes that due to its scale and length, the industrial action will effectively close down all drilling activity on the Mariner platform, which is located in UK Block 9/11a in the northern North Sea about 150 km east of the Shetland Islands. This could also have an impact on production. Equinor, as the operator of the Mariner field, made the final investment decision for the project in 2012.

The field was the Norwegian state-owned energy giant’s first operated development in the UK North Sea when it came on stream in August 2019. The field development concept encompasses the Mariner A production, drilling, and living quarters (PDQ) platform based on a steel jacket with a floating storage unit (FSU), Mariner B.

Odfjell Technology’s annual account from August 2023 shows an increase in the firm’s annual profit, after taxation, to £6.1 million (over $7.7 million) in 2022 up from £2.6 million (almost $3.3 million) in 2021. This is not the company’s first brush with strike action.

Last year, nearly 100 offshore workers employed by the firm on BP’s two platforms in the UK North Sea also backed industrial action to secure paid leave away from their three on/three off working rota.