Photo: Alwyn Platform; Courtesy of TotalEnergies

Hundreds of North Sea workers set to down tools to stop terms & conditions cuts

Following a rejection of an improved offer from their employers, about 300 oil and gas workers in the UK North Sea are preparing to take strike action – starting from next week – amid a dispute over their jobs, pay, and conditions.

Unite, the largest trade union in Britain and Ireland, on Friday confirmed that around 300 members working for Ponticelli UK and Semco Maritime will take industrial action following a dispute over cuts to terms & conditions.

As reported in mid-November 2021, Unite’s Ponticelli UK members voted overwhelmingly to take strike action by 93.6 per cent on a return of 64.8 per cent and Semco Maritime members voted to take strike action by 90.3 per cent on a 61.4 per cent return.

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An improved offer was put to Unite members last week but was rejected by 85 per cent on an 80 per cent return. As a result, Unite members are now set to take strike action from 6 December until late February 2022, including a permanent overtime ban, combined with a series of strike days.

Ponticelli and Semco Maritime are part of an Aberdeen-based consortium formed in 2019 and called PBS, under which the workers provide services on TotalEnergies’ contract on Ailsa FSO, Culzean, Dunbar, Elgin Franklin, Gryphon FPSO, North Alwyn & Shetland Gas Plant.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Unite members at Ponticelli/Semco have given a resounding message to their employers following an overwhelming vote in favour of strike action. These workers do not deserve the treatment being meted out by these employers and refuse to allow this attack on their jobs, pay and conditions. This vote shows that they are prepared to fight back.”

Unite regional officer, John Boland, said: “Unite members are rightly extremely angry and frustrated that the Ponticelli/Semco management didn’t listen. Concerns were raised by Unite about the inexperience of these two companies months ago and that that inexperience has resulted in the position we are at today.”

Boland added: “Ponticelli/Semco management urgently need to rethink their proposals and come back with an improved offer otherwise they will have a strike on their hands which will be supported all the way by their union.

“Our members have made it clear that they are willing to take strike action to stop these cuts on their terms and conditions, and Unite will support them 100 per cent in their fight,” Boland concluded.

Following the announcement by the union, PBS expressed its disappointment over the fact that the agreement was not reached. PBS Director, Andreas Christophersen, said: “Despite our best efforts to avoid industrial action, we have not yet been able to reach an agreement. PBS made an enhanced offer and we were disappointed that it was not accepted, however, we have requested that the unions join us in talks with ACAS about starting a mediation process to bring the dispute to a conclusion. We will continue to work with our employees’ representatives and the trade unions.”