UK: Offshore caterers set to vote on strike action
The article has been amended to include a statement by COTA ( 16:34 pm CET, October 22, 2015)
Britain’s large worker’s union Unite has notified employers in the Catering Offshore Trade Association (COTA), that it will ballot its members across the agreement for industrial action.
According to Unite, the dispute centres on the refusal of employers, companies that supply catering and auxiliary services to offshore oil and gas rigs in the North Sea, to honour a modest pay agreement for the second year of a two-year pay deal, worth around 1.3 per cent.
COTA employers, including Aramark, Compass and Sodexo, have now been served with a statutory seven-day notice for the ballot start period and the ballot itself will run for six weeks, Unite said in a statement on Friday. COTA companies employ around 3.000 people in total, the organisations website shows.
According to the union, industrial action and an offshore strike, the first in a generation, would impact significantly on the delivery of catering and ancillary services on rigs across the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
Unite industrial officer John Boland said: “The point blank refusal of the COTA employers to honour our pay agreement has left us with no choice but to proceed to a formal industrial action ballot.
“Even against the backdrop of oil price volatility and industry pressure, COTA employers’ profits run into billions and it is unacceptable that our agreement – negotiated in good faith – is now being ignored.
“We are giving our members a clear recommendation to vote ‘yes’ for action short of a strike and ‘yes’ for strike action in order to secure the strongest possible mandate to defend their terms and conditions against the industry’s imposition.
“Our members keep the UK offshore industry fed and watered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year but we have to take a stand now in order to prevent a damaging race to the bottom.”
Update: COTA statement, October 22, 2015
Peter Bruce, chair of the Caterers Offshore Trade Association, said: “We are very disappointed with the outcome of the Unite ballot. However, we note that only 250 people have voted in favour of strike action out of a total workforce of over 3000.
“RMT’s ballot closes on Tuesday 27 October. We strongly urge all RMT members who are employed by our member companies to make their voices heard. Our message to them is that if you don’t support the industrial action proposed by the unions you need to cast your vote.
“We understand workers’ frustration at the original pay deal being retracted but we ask them to remember that the economic climate is very different now to the one in which we agreed that deal. Strike action can only threaten the long term sustainability of our industry and jeopardise jobs. We urge workers to remember that if Unite does call on you to take strike action no one is obliged to participate.
“We have detailed contingency plans in place to deliver at least a basic service to our clients and will do all we can to keep installations open throughout any strike. We will be keeping in close contact with all our clients as the situation progresses.”