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UK Union Says Strikes Will Cause Standstill at Dozens of Oil Platforms

UK offshore energy strikes
Unite says 1,400 workers have voted for strikes over pay and work conditions (file photo)

Published Mar 20, 2023 4:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Update: Unite announced it has reached terms with Sparrows Offshore for 50 workers employed on BP platforms. It is a portion of the workforce due to start short work stoppages next week on platforms also operated by Apache, Shell, and Harbour Energy. The agreement for the BP workers provides three additional weeks of paid leave, which Unite says equates to a 10 percent pay increase. Other terms include the implementation of 2022 pay increases and overtime pay for work beyond normal 12-hour shifts. Unite said the disputes against other portions of Sparrows and the other companies outlined in this article remain unresolved. 

 

The UK offshore oil and gas industry is facing the prospects for additional strikes as Unite the union continues to target the sector with job actions over pay and working conditions. The union reported today that it has received strike mandates from a total of nearly 1,400 employees of five additional service companies supporting major operators including BP, Shell, Total, and others. Unite has been targeting the offshore energy sector after it reported record profits.

“Unite has received unprecedented support in favor of industrial action in the UK Continental Shelf. It is the biggest mandate we have received in a generation in the offshore sector,” said John Boland, industrial officer at Unite. “There is no doubt that this is directly linked to oil and gas companies reaping record profits while the workforce gets scraps from the table.”

The union is predicting that the disputes, which involve service companies Bilfinger UK, Stork, Petrofac Facilities Management, and Wood Group UK, could result in a “Tsunami of industrial action” at dozens of platforms. The prospective action would include electrical, production, and mechanical technicians in addition to deck crew, scaffolders crane operators, pipefitters, platers, and riggers.

Each of the companies’ contracts has come up for negotiation with the size of the workforce and the nature of the dispute varying by company. The largest involves approximately 700 offshore workers at Bilfinger UK which are involved in a pay dispute. A further 350 at Stork are disputing work schedules and pay rates. The other two disputes are smaller in scale with 50 workers at Petrofac Facilities Management working at the FOFI platform disputing holiday work rules. A further 80 workers at Wood Group on the TAGA platforms are seeking to win back a 10 percent pay cut the company made in 2015.

These latest strike authorizations come in addition to a current plan for up to 200 workers at Sparrows Offshore Services to begin 24, 48, and 72-hour work stoppages between the end of March and June over pay. Announced at the beginning of March, this involves crane operators, maintenance workers, and lifting personnel as well as deck crews on platforms run for BP, Shell, Apache, and Harbor Energy. 

The latest strike effort could also be further expanded with two additional strike votes which are currently underway. Unite is conducting balloting for 80 workers at Petrofac BP and a further 50 workers at Worley Services UK. Combined with the current efforts, this could involve a total of 1,500 offshore workers in the various actions.

The union has been staging rolling actions across the industry over the past few months. In February, they reached an agreement for nearly 100 drillers working for Odfjell Technology. The drillers will receive three weeks of paid time off work per year, which Unite says equates to around an 11.5 percent wage increase.