Over 30 UK offshore platforms could be hit as 300 workers prepare to ballot on strike action

Around 300 construction members of Stork Technical Services UK will be balloted on strike action over rotas and pay on more than 30 offshore installations in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), UK’s Unite the union reported.

Illustration. Source: Stork

The offshore dispute is centered on working rotas and Stork rates of pay failing to keep pace with the broader cost of living which stands at 13.4 per cent (RPI) and Unite the union is demanding that the contentious three on/three off rotas are abolished.

The ballot runs for four weeks, starting on 17 February and closing on 17 March.

Unite the union recently held a consultative ballot of its Stork membership which revealed support for strike action standing at 96 per cent on a 94 per cent ballot return.

According to the union, a number of operators will be hit by any successful ballot for industrial action including EnQuest, Repsol, Shell and Total, and the strike is set to lead to a “serious backlog” in maintenance work potentially leading to installation shutdowns if any are safety critical which would result in a loss of production.

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“Unite’s members have been backed into a corner by Stork to either swallow a real terms pay cut or fight back. Our members understandably believe that the only way Stork will come back to the negotiating table is through the real threat of strike action,” said Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary.

“This would hit over thirty offshore installations and potentially lead to shutdowns. We will support our members all the way in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions in the offshore sector.”

This offshore dispute comes as record profits were announced by oil and gas operators. Unite blasted the UK Government’s inaction on taxing oil firms as BP posted the biggest profits in its history, doubling to £23 billion in 2022, and Shell reported earnings of £32 billion, bringing the combined total profits of the top two energy companies in Britain to a record £55 billion. 

Throughout 2022 Unite worked hard with Stork to get an improvement on the base rates of pay but the company was unwilling to meet a fair settlement. No one wants to go on strike but it is clear to our members that offshore operators, who are the real paymasters in the sector, are not listening to the current industrial unrest despite lodging record profits,” said Vic Fraser, Unite industrial officer.

“There is already a skills shortage in the offshore sector demonstrated by significant maintenance backlogs. This is before the main offshore maintenance work even starts for 2023. The industry talks about a Just Transition to net zero but unless there are decent terms and conditions in the offshore sector there will not be a workforce left to transition.” 

Unite the union also announced that nearly 100 Odfjell offshore drillers working on BP’s two platforms in the UK sector of the North Sea have backed strike action to secure paid leave away from the current three on/three off working rota, as well as that more than 700 offshore members at Bilfinger UK are set to be balloted on strike action in a dispute over pay.

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