Unions to ballot North Sea workers over strike action (UK)

Wood Group workers employed aboard Shell’s North Sea platforms are set to be balloted over a potential strike action.

Unite, Scotland’s largest workers’ union, will ballot more than 200 North Sea oil rig workers for strike action in a dispute with the Wood Group over, what the union describes as “a swingeing 30 per cent pay cut.”

The ballot, in conjunction with the GMB and RMT unions, will be sent to workers on eight of Shell’s North Sea oil and gas platforms.

The union claims that the dispute stems from the Wood Group’s proposal to cut pay up to 22 per cent, but once reductions to other allowances are added, this amounts to a cut of 30 per cent.

A maintenance technician now earns 6.9 per cent less per offshore day due to changes to holiday pay, Unite said. Recent changes have also seen workers move to a three-week working cycle, the Union added.

The ballot comes as oil prices have recovered to hit an eight-month high as Brent crude reached over $50 a barrel on June 7. The price of oil has nearly doubled since January, when it hit its lowest level since late 2003 when the price of a barrel dropped below $30.

According to Unite, the ballot for strike action and also industrial action short of a strike will open on Wednesday June 15, and close at noon on Wednesday, July 13, with any industrial action starting on July 20.

Unite regional officer, John Boland said: “Unite members are not immune to the challenges facing the oil and gas industry.

“We, along with other trade unions in the offshore coordinating group, have been leading the debate on the need to hold an emergency summit involving the Scottish and UK governments, employers and trade unions to deliver greater support for the sector. ”

“However, due to the intransigence of the Wood Group which is seeking to impose pay cuts of up to 30 per cent, our members have been faced with no other option but to consider strike action.

“We remain committed to constructive negotiations with the company and urge them to get back round the table, but they must be prepared to work with us to find an agreed settlement.

“If management does not respond in a positive fashion then Unite will resolutely act to support and protect our members.”

Wood Group disappointed

Offshore Energy Today contacted Wood Group to hear the other side. This is what the company said:

“Our priority has always been and remains, the safeguarding of long-term employment opportunities for our employees on these assets.  We are strongly committed to working closely with our employees and the unions to meet our mutual goal of sustaining these jobs in the North Sea, now and in the future.

“The terms and conditions under review have been approved by the OCA and the recognised unions. During the consultation process we have attempted to reach an agreement with our employees by offering an enhancement to these terms and conditions, aligned with their competency and experience. 

“We are extremely disappointed to be in this position during the consultation process and remain focused on continuing to engage with our employees and the unions to reach a positive resolution.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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