North Sea oil workers’ first strike for 28 years

NORTH Sea oil workers employed on Shell platforms took strike action on Tuesday, for the first time in more than a quarter of a century, in response to their employer’s (the Wood Group) refusal to withdraw changes to their pay and conditions that would put them up to £20,000 per year out of pocket.

The 24-hour strike was preceded on Monday by an overtime ban that still continues and was organised by two unions, Unite and RMT.

Unite balloted its members and received overwhelming support in favour of strike action of 99.1 per cent on a turnout of 86.6 per cent. The strike action follows the disappointment of both unions that talks at the conciliation service Acas failed to resolve the situation. Around 400 workers from both unions are involved in the action.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said on Monday: “After savage redundancies and attacks on workload and working conditions this group of offshore workers are now told that they are going to be railroaded into accepting pay cuts of up to 30 per cent.

“They have voted overwhelmingly to reject this assault on their livelihoods and from 6.30 tomorrow morning the strike action begins.

“We are well aware that the company chief Executive has had a pay increase of 28 per cent to bring him up to £600,000. It is obscene that while the top bosses are lining their own pockets they are kicking the workforce from pillar to post.

“This brave group of workers are taking a stand against the greed and savagery that is a mark of corporate Britain in 2016. They deserve the full support of the entire trade union movement.

“The unions remain available for serious and meaningful talks.”

John Boland, Unite regional officer, said: “To say we are disappointed it has had to come to this is an understatement, but bosses at Wood Group are simply not listening.

“This dispute is the first in the North Sea in three decades and shows the strength of feeling of our members who feel backed into a corner and left with no other option but to use their industrial strength to make Wood Group listen.

“Our members have been faced with changes to shift patterns which have seen them working longer offshore for the same pay and as well as having three rounds of redundancies imposed on them [sic]. This attack on their pay and allowances has pushed our members too far this time. For decades, oil and gas companies across the North Sea have made hay while the sun shone and become very profitable on the back of the hard work and dedication of our members. Now the weather has turned for the industry, they are using the downturn to attack the pay, terms and conditions of our members.

“Unite has the strongest possible mandate for this action, but stands committed to further talks with Wood Group bosses. However, they must significantly improve their position by withdrawing the threats to reduce pay and remove allowances. No request for an eleventh-hour meeting has been made by Wood Group bosses.