Contractors Set for Strike on TotalEnergies' UK Offshore Platforms

Offshore workers employed by the Ponticelli / Semco consortium PBS (PBS file image)

Published Nov 17, 2021 5:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

UK labor union Unite announced Tuesday that about 300 members who work for offshore rig maintenance contractors Ponticelli and Semco Maritime have voted in favor of a strike over their contract terms and conditions. Semco and Ponticelli operate together as a consortium under the brand name PBS, based out of Aberdeen, and their JV holds TotalEnergies' maintenance contract for all UK offshore assets. 

Unite’s Ponticelli UK members voted to take strike action by more than 93 percent, and its Semco Maritime Ltd members voted to take strike action by 90 percent. Both saw ballot participation of more than 60 percent of their membership. 

Unite members are now set to take industrial action, including an overtime ban, from early December until late February 2022. These members work on the TotalEnergies contract on the Alisa FSO, Culzean, Dunbar, Elgin Franklin, Gryphon FPSO, North Alwyn and Shetland Gas Plant.

“These workers have worked through the COVID pandemic . . . they are the people that have kept North Sea platforms producing oil and gas for Total. But now that oil and gas prices are at a new high, vaccines have greatly reduced the impact of COVID, and Total are making millions in profits, our members are being asked to accept cuts to their terms and conditions and redundancies," said Unite regional officer John Boland. “Unite members are beyond angry and frustrated. We now see that Unite was right when we raised concerns about the inexperience of these two companies and that that inexperience would result in cost cutting for our members terms and conditions as well as jobs."

In a response statement, Ponticelli PBS director Andreas Christophersen said that the consortium was disappointed by the outcome of the ballot vote, but it plans to work closely with the union to "achieve the solutions which best meet the needs of all parties."

“The decision to make changes to anyone’s terms and conditions is not taken lightly, and we are appreciative of the efforts that have gone into ensuring assets have been able to operate since the beginning of the pandemic," Christophersen said. 

For its part, Unite struck an unusually sharp tone in its critique of the firm's management - even for a union in the midst of a labor dispute. "Those making the decisions within these companies clearly lack experience and sound judgement. They need to rethink their proposals and come back with an improved offer," said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.