UK Offshore Unions Fight Over New Work Rotations

Published at 07:24PM - 04/08/15

UK Offshore workers unions, Unite and GMB, have publicly fallen out over the proposed changes to offshore work rotations proposed by much of the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry.

The majority of the UK’s North Sea operators have proposed to move workers from their current two on three off rotations, to either a three on three off or three on four off rotation.

The moves come in light of the ongoing slump in the global oil price.  The knock on affect has caused the majority of the UK’s offshore oil and gas fields and infrastructure to become unprofitable, due largely to many running with overheads that require the price of a barrel of oil to be at least $75 plus.

Most oil companies operating within the UK offshore sector have consulted their workers independently, to find out their views and preferences to what rotations they would prefer if the current two on three off were to cease.

Offshore operators have previously stated to Offshore Post, that moving their workers to different rotations, would give the operators huge savings on mobilising fees, including helicopters and moving personnel through the overpriced oil hub of Aberdeen.

Offshore Post reported only yesterday, that due to investment in infrastructure integrity, UK production has increased for the first time in 15 years.  This has gone some way in pushing down operating costs within the sector.

Unions representing UK offshore workers had previously threatened to ballot its members for strike action, after a previous financial offer of compensation was not regarded as acceptable by union bosses. 

However strike action was called off after a new ‘improved’ offer was put forward by the OCA.

Unions Difference Of Opinion

Over the last two months, unions along with the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA), the body representing offshore operators, have been siting down for further talks on the matter.

Both the GMB and Unite unions recently balloted their members, with opposing results. 

The GMB, who claim to have over 631,000 members, released a statement on Monday to announce that its members had accepted the offer.

Drawing a line under the issue, the National Officer of the GMB, David Hulse, said, “GMB members have voted to accept the latest offer from the employers to end this dispute. We have conveyed the result to the OCA employers,”

Unite, the UK’s largest union, who claim to have over 1.4 million members release a statement with its results, showing its members had rejected the deal.

The statement said that 63.5 percent of the members balloted had voted against accepting the offer.

Industrial Officer for Unite, Willie Wallace, said: “We said previously that our members would have the final say and they are clear that the OCA offer isn’t good enough. North Sea employers must do more to address the deep concerns our members have over these shift pattern changes – from loss of earnings and livelihoods to the impact on workplace health and safety and quality of life. 

David Hulse from GMB commented after Unite’s statement saying, “In view of the rejection of the offer by Unite members in a ballot vote, GMB is urging Unite and the employers to join with us to seek a resolution of the dispute.”