Norway Oil Unions Mull Strike in Sympathy with UK Divers

STAVANGER, Nov 9, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Norwegian workers engaged in sub-sea oil and gas activities, excluding divers, are currently awaiting approval to strike at an unnamed field in the Norwegian North Sea, in sympathy action with U.K. divers who are on strike over wages, Norway union representatives have said.

Norway's Industri Energi union spokesman Age Baerheim told Dow Jones Newswires that remote-operated vehicle workers at an unspecified Norwegian oil field could go on strike from Dec. 1 if approval for the action is gained from the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, or LO.

IE said Norwegian divers aren't allowed by law to take sympathy action, but that associated personnel working on sub-sea operations could strike.

"We don't want to take out too many (personnel), just enough to have an effect on one platform... it could stop oil production," Baerheim said.

He couldn't specify which platform would be hit if a strike goes ahead, but said IE has to give 14 days notice to employers, meaning it is unlikely there would be action before Dec. 1.

Baerheim added that the IE could decide to expand its action to impact other diving contractors, and cited Acergy, Technip and Subsea 7.

He said the decision to remove only a few personnel was "strategic", to "put pressure" on companies that are currently negotiating with U.K. union RMT over divers' wages.

"It's about time things happened in British waters, now it looks like the divers might be doing something for everyone, drilling crew, catering crews," Baerheim said.

He added that IE is in close cooperation with the RMT over the ongoing U.K. strike.

"The Norwegian organizations will support RMT and its general secretary Bob Crow in all attempts to make better pay and working conditions for U.K. offshore workers and marine crew," he said.

Baerheim predicted there will be a lot more cooperation in future between unions in the North Sea, including those in Denmark and the Netherlands.

U.K. divers are due to vote on a new revised pay offer of in excess of 44% over three years in the next few days, which will decide whether U.K. strike action continues, and Norwegian sympathy action begins.

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