North Sea Divers' Union Hopeful of Quick Strike Resolution

LONDON, Nov 6, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Striking North Sea divers were hopeful of resolving their pay dispute after entering into indirect talks with their employers, a representative for divers' union the RMT said Monday.

"We are hoping something moves today," said the RMT representative, but talks were ongoing and it looked like it was "going to be a long night." The negotiations, conducted through conciliation service ACAS, began Monday morning.

The representative also denied allegations from the divers' employers that the union hadn't followed agreed shutdown procedures for diving systems when the strike began on Nov. 1.

"We said we would follow all safety procedures on condition that the company gave its assurance that these vessels would not be mobilized," said the representative. "These assurances were not forthcoming."

The employers said in a statement Friday that equipment could take "several weeks" to restart because correct procedures weren't followed.

A spokesman for the U.K. Offshore Operators Association, or UKOOA, said Friday they, "don't expect [the strike] to have any impact on [oil and gas] production," or safety.

The spokesman said this time of year usually saw very little diver activity, and most planned maintenance work is done in the summer.

The strike began after divers rejected a three-year pay offer, which included a 20% increase in wages effective Nov. 1 followed by a further 5% on April 1, 2007.

RMT General-secretary Bob Crow said last week that divers' earnings, "have slipped by 20% in the average pay tables, while the oil and gas companies have been raking in super-profits."

A spokesman for the divers' employers denied this comment last week, and said the divers were, "actually on rates, including the current offer, 40% above inflation."

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