Unite to Ballot Over 200 North Sea Workers for Strike Action

Unite, Scotland’s largest union, will ballot more than 200 North Sea oil rig workers for strike action in a dispute with Wood Group over a 30 percent 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 dispute stems from Wood Group’s proposal to cut pay by up to 22 percent, which swings up to 30 percent once reductions to other allowances are added.

Unite’s ballot for strike action, and industrial action short of a strike, will open June 15 and close at July 13. Any industrial action would start July 20.

“Unite members are not immune to the challenges facing the oil and gas industry,” said Unite regional officer, John Boland, in a statement sent to Rigzone.

“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 percent, our members have been faced with no other option but to consider strike action,” he added.

"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,” Boland concluded.

“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,” a Wood Group representative told Rigzone.

“The terms and conditions under review have been approved by the OCA and the recognized 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,” added the spokesperson.

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

The ballot comes as oil prices have recovered to hit an eight-month high as Brent crude reached over $50 a barrel 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.

A graduate in journalism from Cardiff University, Andreas has eight years of experience as a business journalist. Email Andreas at andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com

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