Workers on Shell’s North Sea platforms to go ahead with strike action

Following a failure by the Wood Group to come up with any solutions in talks over pay reductions, proposed cuts and changes to working conditions on Shell’s North Sea oil and gas platforms, action scheduled to start on Tuesday morning will go ahead, UK’s RMT union said on Monday. 

A ban on overtime working started this morning and will run continuously, RMT added.

According to a press release by the union, the company is proposing cuts to members’ pay which could amount to up to 22%, however once reductions to allowances are factored in, the cut could be as much as 30%. RMT, along with its colleagues in the sister trade unions, has objected to these proposals in the strongest possible terms but the company have failed to move, the union stated.

RMT said it maintains that the situation is totally unnecessary as the Wood Group have just been awarded a new five-year contract for North Sea operations, which is valued at $150 million. The unions in the joint offshore committee therefore requested further talks to try and resolve this matter.

“However, the company have indicated that they wish to bulldoze through the implementation of these cuts,” said RMT. This left RMT with little option but to ballot its members for strike action and industrial action short of strike, the union explained.

The affected members have voted overwhelmingly for both strike action and action short of a strike in the ballot and noting the mandate from the grass roots the National Executive Committee has taken the decision to call industrial action.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “After savage redundancies and attacks on workload and working conditions this group of offshore workers are now told that they are going to be railroaded into accepting pay cuts of up to 30%. They have voted overwhelmingly to reject this assault on their livelihoods and from 6.30 tomorrow morning the strike action begins.

“We are well aware that the company Chief Executive has had a pay increase of 28% to bring him up to £600,000. It is obscene that while the top bosses are lining their own pockets they are kicking the workforce from pillar to post.

“This brave group of workers are taking a stand against the greed and savagery that is a mark of corporate Britain in 2016. They deserve the full support of the entire trade union movement.

“The unions remain available for serious and meaningful talks.”

UK’s other union, Unite, also said on Monday that its members working on Shell platforms across the North Sea will be on strike for the first time in 28 years in response to Wood Group’s failure to withdraw proposed cuts of up to 30 per cent in pay and allowances.

“To say we are disappointed it has had to come to this is an understatement, but bosses at Wood Group are simply not listening,” Boland said. 

According to Unite, tomorrow’s 24 hour stoppage starts at 06:30 and follows a ban on overtime by workers which came into force at midnight today (Monday 25 July). Tomorrow’s strike and the action short of strike will be followed by further stoppages over the coming weeks.

John Boland, Unite regional officer said: “To say we are disappointed it has had to come to this is an understatement, but bosses at Wood Group are simply not listening. This dispute is the first in the North Sea in three decades and shows the strength of feeling of our members who feel backed into a corner and left with no other option but to use their industrial strength to make Wood Group listen.

“Our members have been faced with changes to shift patterns which have seen them working longer offshore for the same pay and as well as having three rounds of redundancies imposed on them. This attack on their pay and allowances has pushed our members too far this time.”

Boland also added: “Unite has the strongest possible mandate for this action, but stands committed to further talks with Wood Group bosses. However, they must significantly improve their position by withdrawing the threats to reduce pay and remove allowances. No request for an eleventh-hour meeting has been made by Wood Group bosses.”

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