Strike Action Threaten Offshore Industry

The North Sea oil industry could face strike action soon after trade unions rejected a pay deal that was tabled by chiefs in June.

The move brings industrial action back on the cards with a ballot on industrial action expected to occur in the next month. Many believed that the issue was resolved after an offer from the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA) that according to them would benefit each worker by around £7,000 per annum. Despite this, 63.5% of workers turned down the offer and meaning that potential industrial action could occur.

The OCA stated that it was “extremely disappointed” by the voting outcome and reiterated the warning that strike action would “jeopardise” the industry’s future.

Ongoing Employment Dispute

Union bosses stated that the vast number of workers voting against the offer showed that the OCA needed to reconsider how it dealt with workers. The dispute has raged on for numerous months over oil and gas companies’ efforts to offset the impact of the oil price slump by changing shift patterns, sick pay and leave entitlement. Although oil companies have argued that such changes were needed,

OCA chief executive Bill Murray said the deal addressed sick pay and holiday pay, two of the decisive areas but that sadly it was not enough to convince Unite’s members. In a statement Mr Murray said: “We are extremely disappointed that the workforce has chosen to ignore their Trade Unions’ advice and reject our offer.

“We believe that we have acted as a fair negotiator throughout this process and that our offer balances the needs of workers with the requirements of business at this challenging time.

“As we have said before, strike action will only serve to make the investment in the North Sea less attractive and jeopardise the long-term future of the industry.”

A subsequent vote from the GMB union is currently unknown, however, according to sources, Unite’s ballot carries more weight with a significantly larger number of voters.

Unite industrial officer Willie Wallace, said: “We said previously that our members would have the final say, and they are clear that the OCA offer isn’t good enough.

“North Sea employers must do more to address the deep concerns our members have over these shift pattern changes – from loss of earnings and livelihoods to the impact on workplace health and safety and quality of life.”

Industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) weighed in on the debate expressing disappointment about the outcome.  An OGUK spokeswoman said: “We hope that the door is still open to finding an agreement, and both sides can reach an understanding that will safeguard the long-term future of our industry.”

Strike Action

The news comes following a statement at the Unite rules conference which saw Unite union boss Len McCluskey remove the clause that prevented workers from taking illegal strikes. The move is expected to attempt to cancel out the Conservative government's plan to make it even more difficult for members to take strikes, especially in the public sector and vital industries.

Contact Us

If you require legal advice regarding taking strike action, if you are being harassed in the workplace over union actions or if you believe you have been unfairly dismissed for taking your legal rights, contact us today using our online contact form.


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