UK PRESS: Offshore Oil Industry Fears UK Worker Rule Change

LONDON Aug 26, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

North Sea oil industry employers fear that upcoming U.K. legislation putting offshore oil and gas workers outside U.K. territorial waters under E.U. rules covering working hours and holidays will lead to legal claims that could close large parts of their business, the Financial Times reported on its Web site Friday.

U.K. Employment Minister Jim Fitzpatrick plans to introduce legislation on Oct. 1 that would extend the jurisdiction of the E.U.'s working-time directive to cover 17,000 workers on rigs outside U.K. territorial waters.

The industry's worries stem from a judgment by the European Court of Justice that the time doctors on long shifts spent sleeping should be classified as working hours. The industry fear that this ruling might be applied to offshore workers, FT reported.

The U.K. Offshore Operators Association has calculated the industry would have to hire an extra 20,000 workers if the E.U. ruled that all time spent offshore should be classified as working time.

If this were to happen, it would "restrict staff to working just eight days a month and could...lead to large parts of the industry closing down," the association said Friday, FT reported.

"No sensible person in government, the trade unions, employers or members of the workforce can want that outcome, and it could easily be avoided by applying the same principles to offshore work as have already been applied to other sectors such as merchant shipping," said the association's director, Chris Allen, who urged the government "to take action to protect the U.K.'s oil and gas industry from the risk to its future posed by inappropriate application of working-time legislation."

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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