The UK North Sea offshore industry is close to its first strike in two decades after talks between British unions and employers over UK offshore workers’ terms and conditions broke down.
On Thursday (20 May) the GMB Union announced that it would ballot its members about a strike. On Friday, the Unite union announced that it would also proceed with a strike ballot and that it had issued the Offshore Contractors’ Association (OCA) with a legal notice warning of the proposed industrial action.
In dispute is the OCA’s plan to introduce changes to the shift rotation patterns worked by offshore works in UK waters. The employers’ organisation wants to implement the changes unilaterally, in a bid to lower logistical costs and improve productivity by creating fewer shift handovers.
According to the OCA’s Chief Executive, Bill Murray, in exchange for these productivity changes employers have offered a wage increase of between £1,600 and £8,000 per worker.
On Wednesday, just as the talks were breaking down, BP announced that it plans to move its offshore workers from a two weeks on/ two weeks off shift pattern to three weeks on/ three weeks off. In a statement it said it was implementing the change in the interests of the ‘long-term sustainability’ of its UK North Sea business.
Both the GMB and Unite stated that talks aimed at resolving the dispute ended on Wednesday without a satisfactory result. However, trade body, Oil & Gas UK, said that it believes the ‘door is still open’ to an agreement.