Unions: UK North Sea Workers Give 'Overwhelming' Support For Strike

Reuters

LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - Trade unions Unite and GMB said members working offshore in Britain's oil and gas industry had shown overwhelming support for industrial action over proposed changes to their terms and conditions in a consultative ballot which closed on Friday.

Unite's members covered by the Offshore Contractors' Agreement delivered a 93.5 percent vote in favour of proceeding to a strike ballot, increasing the likelihood of North Sea strike action for the first time in a generation, the union said.

GMB's members also voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of an official ballot for strike action over proposals from clients and contractors to change their conditions of employment, GMB said.

The vote came after talks between GMB and Unite and the Offshore Contractors' Association in February and March failed to make progress on rota changes, rates of pay, sick pay and holiday patterns, GMB said.

"The vote quite clearly demonstrates the anger and frustration of our members employed in the offshore industry," said Dave Hulse, GMB National Officer. "Members are prepared to strongly oppose the changes from clients and contractors."

It was not immediately clear how many workers any eventual strike action would involve. The unions now face the task of putting together an electoral register that is robust enough to withstand any potential legal challenges, a process which could take some time, a spokesman for GMB said.

Some operators want to move to a three weeks on, three weeks off shift pattern, as opposed to the more traditional two weeks on, two or three weeks off.

Companies are also cutting headcount in their North Sea operations to trim costs, with hundreds of job losses announced at Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Talisman Sinopec, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Taqa since oil prices plunged in 2014.

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said the "massive support" for industrial action should come as no surprise to offshore employers. "The industry agenda is clear in that it wants to impose a reduced number of employees to work longer and for much less -- it's a 'race to the bottom' disease that is unsustainable and unacceptable."

(Reporting by Claire Milhench; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright 2016 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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Ryan Stanmore | Apr. 2, 2015
I understand that the oil price is low, but the companies know it will return, with $100 per barrel expected mid 2016. But the larger operators in the north sea must realise that if they hold off going 3:3 and stay 2:3, then theyll be able to pick and chose the best employees to bring to their companies, the smaller companies on tighter budgets on 3:3 will get all the rest. If theres a job going for a 2:3 or 3:3, guess what one will get the most applications in. 3:3 will prove a bad move when people are killed through fatigue.....its a shame.....but its inevitable

Bab Boon | Mar. 28, 2015
I sympathise with Pat Raffertys concerns, because once his members rights are eroded clawing them back will be a nightmare. The problem is this is not ELF wanting to put its hands greedily into workers pockets - The companies are genuinely under the hammer with prices so far through the floor theyre digging out the basement. Id hope for, but not bet on, a deal whereby pay and conditions can be frozen or even reduced for a set period - could be date like October, or an event linked to oil price - In return for a guaranteed limit on further job losses or maybe a partial spread of job losses (eg instead of making one man redundant 5 men go to 80%) for the same period of the accord.


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