Unions: Job cuts could create Piper Alpha-like disaster (UK)

Cuts being made across the offshore oil industry as a result of the falling oil price will compromise safety and lose key skills to the UK, the UK’s biggest union, Unite, has said.

With oil companies set to reduce spending on investment and exploration by $170 billion (37 per cent of spend) by 2017, Unite is calling upon the UK government to step in with much-needed support for the sector to help ensure that safety standards are upheld while the industry endures a period of considerable uncertainty.

The union has warned that that the seeds of another disaster on the scale of Piper Alpha could well be being sown with this downturn.

On Wednesday, July 6, 1988 the Piper Alpha platform in the UK part of the North Sea was struck by an explosion which set the facility on fire, killing 167 men on board.

The platform, located in the North Sea approximately 110 miles from Aberdeen, Scotland, had 226 people on board at the time of the event. Only 61 survived. The platform was totally destroyed.

Key skills in jeopardy

Unite’s regional officer John Taylor, said on Saturday: “The rush by firms to cut jobs and reduce costs is placing enormous pressure on the remaining workforce, and is harming the industry’s reputation.

“Unless something is done soon to stem the flow of job losses, key skills will be lost. Our worst fear is that these cuts could create the potential for another health and safety disaster on the scale of Piper Alpha.”

“We are seeing already that in the shift to working three weeks on followed by three weeks off in an intensely harsh and demanding environment is taking its toll on workers. The climate of cost-cutting that is descending is not consistent with maximum public and worker safety.”

Unite is critical of the industry’s failure to set aside money from their considerable profits for times such as these but says that government intervention is justified:

“The oil industry employs around 450,000 people across the UK with around 130,000 employed in Scotland, and has contributed greatly to the national wealth for generations. But now the sector is facing a crisis following the dramatic fall in oil prices and a downturn in demand, these workers now need action, not blame-apportioning.

“We are losing vital, world class skills so we are urging the national government to do as they have done for previous important sectors and provide financial assistance,” John Taylor added.


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