UK Unions Advance Toward Merger

After several months of fruitful talks between the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC) and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' Union (RMT), officials are finalizing details of a historic proposal to unite the two unions.

Delegates at the OILC conference, to be held in Aberdeen on October 6, will decide whether to put the proposal to transfer engagements and become RMT's offshore section to a ballot of the OILC's more than 2,000 members.

The move to bring the two unions together has already been endorsed by a special general meeting of RMT, held in Doncaster in March, and has the support of the entire OILC executive.

RMT, Britain's fastest growing union, already organizes divers and catering workers in the offshore industry, and recently won its more than 900 North Sea divers and support staff a 45 percent pay rise after a ten-day, all-out strike.

OILC, which organizes offshore engineering, drilling, construction and support workers, was set up following the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster, which claimed 167 lives.

"Democracy, integrity, transparency and acccountability are at the very heart of RMT and it is refreshing to be talking to an organization built on grass-roots involvement rather than so-called partnership," said OILC general secretary Jake Molloy. "RMT's track record, not least on the recent divers' dispute, supports our view that it is a union prepared to fight for workers' rights, and the OILC executive is united behind the proposal, which will now be put to our members."

"Our two unions have the same outlook and organize in the same offshore maritime sector, and joining forces makes sound industrial sense," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said. "Bringing OILC and RMT together will benefit the members of both unions, and deliver more industrial clout in an industry that is notoriously difficult to organize in."

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