Unions Unite Against North Sea Job Losses

offshore workers

Published May 27, 2016 8:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Maritime and oil and gas unions affiliated to global federations IndustriAll and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) met in Aberdeen last week to begin development of an industrial and political strategy that challenges the replacement of quality jobs with cheap labor in the North Sea. 

The group represents workers from Denmark, Norway and U.K., and ITF says that in both the oil-service sector and within the subsea-contractor segment there are still companies that are not covered by collective bargaining agreements, something the North Sea oil and gas supply chain and hubs group intends to address.

In the maritime sector, “social dumping” in the region has expanded through the employment of non-European workers resulting in unfair competition and redundancies for local workers, says ITF. 

The oil service, subsea and maritime supply companies situated in the North Sea continental shelves are considered the main targets of the campaign to expose the industry’s part in the “race to the bottom” which has seen the loss of thousands of British, Danish and Norwegian national’s jobs, estimated to be over 50,000.

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina said: “These companies are over-eager to terminate traditional contracts. The competition to cut costs and reduce working conditions in this region is stark. The sheer level of the cutbacks being made is having a severe impact on health and safety of workers. We’re waiting to hear the outcome of the investigation into the death of a Filipino seafarer who died on Technip owned and managed vessel Deep Energy in Invergordon this month – cases like that are obviously of concern.”

General secretary of the ITF Steve Cotton said: “The Oil and Gas Authority are talking about the desire to retain people and skills in the sector and to retrain and redeploy the workforce, but we need to see real commitment to that in terms of action.”

The meeting also noted Petroleum Safety Authority Norway’s annual report on safety on the Norwegian continental shelf. The report states that in 2015, the Authority investigated 10 incidents. The first fatal accident in the petroleum industry since 2009 occurred when the accommodation module of the COSLInnovator semi-submersible drilling rig was hit by a wave. As a result of the accident, one person died and a further four were injured. Also, in 2015, there was a serious gas leak on the Gudrun facility which could have resulted in a major accident.

Towards the end of 2015, another serious incident occurred when a drifting, unmanned barge entered the Norwegian sector. The barge was in the Dutch sector when it broke loose. The facilities in the Valhall field and the Eldfisk field which were at risk of being hit by the barge were shut down and evacuated.

Further meetings of the union groups are planned to progress an industrial and political campaign gathering support from the offshore workforce and political groups in Europe.