FPSO Captain; Source: Ithaca Energy

Wave of disputes over pay to encompass 40 offshore installations, as workers vote on downing tools

UK’s Unite the union has outlined that more than 700 offshore members at Bilfinger UK Limited are set to be balloted on strike action in a dispute over pay, which could result in 40 offshore installations being hit by industrial action in April.

FPSO Captain; Source: Ithaca Energy

Unite the union confirmed last week that it was demanding an increase above the base rate of pay set in the Energy Services Agreement (ESA) for 2022, and for this to be back-dated to last July. Last year, the ESA agreed to a 4 per cent uplift, which was meant to be paid in January 2023, but the union claims that this has not been paid to date. 

According to the union, Bilfinger has refused to increase pay beyond the ESA base rate at a time when the broader cost of living stands at 13.4 per cent (RPI). In addition, Unite claims that Bilfinger has not implemented any pay awards and allowance uplifts that were also agreed in November 2022. 

As a result, workers have decided to cast their votes regarding a potential strike action and the ballot will run for four weeks, opening on 17 February and closing on 17 March. Following a successful ballot result, strike action and an overtime ban are expected to take place in early April 2023. 

Shauna Wright, Unite industrial officer, remarked: “Unite has served notice on Bilfinger because our members feel that their voices and concerns have not been heard. We will now ballot more than 700 workers across nearly 40 offshore installations where Bilfinger UK Limited has a presence.

“This development comes after months of failed attempts by Unite to get Bilfinger to increase pay beyond the ESA base rate. Our members are angry and they have had enough. It’s time Bilfinger paid their workforce what they deserve before a wave of industrial unrest hits the UK Continental Shelf.”

Based on the union’s statement, a number of oil and gas operators will be hit by this industrial action, including BP, CNRI, Ithaca, Harbour, Repsol and TAQA. In line with this, Unite predicts that any strike action on the offshore installations will impact production and planned work, thus, nearly 40 installations will be hit by hundreds of tradespersons not completing planned work.

The full list of offshore installations that could be impacted by this strike action covers Alba North, Andrew, Arbroath, Auk, Bleoholm, Brae Alpha, Britannia, FPSO Captain, Captain WPP, Clair, Clair Ridge, Claymore, Clyde, Cormorant Alpha, East Brae, Eider, Etap, FPF1, Fulmar, Glen Lyon, Harding, Jade, Jasmine, Judy, Leman Alpha, Montrose, Ninian Central, Ninian South, North Cormorant, Piper Bravo, Seafox 4, Sean Papa, Solan, Sole Pit Clipper, Tartan Alpha, Tern Alpha, Tiffany, and Unity.

This offshore dispute is part of a wave of industrial unrest hitting the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) with Unite involved in a series of disputes concerning operators and contractors, such as the one involving nearly 100 offshore workers, working on BP’s two platforms in the UK sector of the North Sea, who backed strike action to secure paid leave away from the current three on/three off working rota.

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Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, commented: “The UK’s oil and gas operators and contractors are being served with record numbers of industrial action ballots. There is one simple reason why this is happening – corporate greed.

“Companies like Bilfinger have refused to pay attention to the concerns of our members by offering a decent and fair pay rise. Unite will continue to fully support all our members fighting back for good jobs, pay and conditions across the offshore sector.”