Oil and gas extractors in the North Sea were today hit by a 48-hour strike by a claimed 1,300 offshore workers, in what its leading union described as the North Sea’s “biggest strike for a generation”.
Unite the Union confirmed the short-term downing of tools, a move it said would impose ‘severe problems’ on contractors and their clients such as multi-billion extractors Shell, BP and Total. It forecast further disruption.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Oil and gas companies are enjoying record windfall profits, and they can easily afford to give our members a decent pay rise.
“This 48-hour action will only be the start of the tsunami of industrial unrest if contractors and operators refuse to give our offshore members the better jobs, pay and conditions they deserve”
The stoppage is the most direct confrontation yet in nearly a year of unrest which has affected rigs. Besides pay, working conditions including little loved “three-weeks on, three-weeks off” rota patterns head the unions’ grievances.
The union says it is balloting around 70 offshore employees of TotalEnergies on the Elgin Franklin and North Alwyn platforms and the Shetland gas plant on strike action. The ballots close on 5 May.
Unite added it already has strike mandates at Petrofac BP covering around 100 members, and over 80 members employed by the Wood Group. No strike dates have been announced in relation to these disputes.
According to the union, deck crew, electricians, production and mechanical technicians plus scaffolders, crane operators and pipefitters will down tools, affecting firms such as Bilfinger UK Limited, Petrofac Facilities Management, Stork Technical Services, and Sparrows Offshore Services.
John Boland, Unite’s industrial officer, warned of interruptions to output. ”Due to the specialised work our members undertake, offshore platforms will not be able to operate safely and efficiently without them”, the official said.
For Petrofac a spokesperson said: “As a service provider committed to long-term commercial frameworks we have as limited control over changes to contractual arrangements.
“Whilst strike action affects less than 50 of our North Sea colleagues, we remain committed to resolving this dispute through constructive dialogue, whilst ensuring no increased risk to personnel or the environment during industrial action”.