Shell, Harbour Energy to be hit as 150 contractors begin strike

Shell, Harbour Energy to be hit as 150 contractors prompt ‘tsunami’ of offshore strike action

Over 20 oil and gas platforms are expected to bit hit as around 150 Sparrows Offshore Services’ contractors are set to start strike action from today, 5 April, UK’s Unite the union reported.

Source: Sparrows Group

A series of stoppages will continue up to 9 June by Sparrows’ contractors in a dispute over pay. The strike action is set to hit a number of major operators including Apache, Shell, and Harbour Energy.

According to the union, the move by Sparrows’ workers is the opening round in a widely anticipated “tsunami” of industrial action on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) which could shut down dozens of platforms.

“Oil and gas companies in the North Sea have had massive windfall profits so there’s no question that they can afford to give Unite members a decent pay rise,” said Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham.

“Around 150 Sparrows offshore workers will lead the fight for a decent deal in what is going to be a tsunami of industrial action to challenge the profiteering of North Sea operators and contractors. Unite will support all our members every step of the way in this fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

The workers include electrical, production and mechanical technicians in addition to deck crew, scaffolders crane operators, pipefitters, platers, and riggers working for Bilfinger UK, Stork Construction, Petrofac Facilities Management, Wood Group UK, and Worley Services UK.

The strike action also involves Sparrows’ Flying Squad which provides maintenance support across all installations with no set platform.  

“Unite’s Sparrows members are determined to reverse a number of savage cuts made, in recent years, to terms and conditions,” said Vic Fraser Unite Regional Officer.

“Contractors and operators who rely on the specialised roles that our members carry out to deliver their bonanza record profits will soon discover that their platforms and production will grind to a halt without them. Offshore workers have simply had enough of corporate profiteering at their expense, and they are determined to get their fair share.”

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Unite the union 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. 

Previously, 95.5 per cent of Unite the union members voted to take strike action on a 75 per cent turnout.

The UK union reported in mid-February that offshore workers employed by Petrofac on one of Ithaca Energy’s platforms and those working for Wood Group UK on TAQA’s platforms are being balloted for strike action. This brought the total number of workers being balloted across dozens of offshore installations on UKCS to over 1,300.