N. Sea contractors and unions ponder pay-talk tactics

industrial dispute graphicBy DARA BUTTERFIELD

The Offshore Contractors Association (OCA) has dismissed possible strike action as “premature” despite talks between the organisation and the Unite and GMB unions breaking down last Friday.

GMB Scotland has claimed that the terms and conditions of its members in the offshore industry are under attack. Its officers will seek permission from the union’s regional committee to ballot members covered by the Offshore Contractors Agreement about possible strike action.

Bill Murray, Chief Executive, OCA, said: “Unite have complained that there was insufficient consultation on the change. Talk of strike action is premature.”

“We are in a challenging time for the North Sea oil and gas industry. For some time we have experienced unsustainable levels of cost inflation and whilst recognition of the need to reduce this is not new, the dramatic fall in the price of oil has accelerated the need to address this.

“The industry is now facing a particular dilemma where operators are looking to reduce costs promptly, especially for those with operations where costs are outstripping revenue.

“The need for productivity enhancements and efficient working is well understood by the industry and was highlighted to union negotiators in talks in December. These talks are ongoing.”

Further meetings between OCA, Unite and GMB are scheduled to commence on February 25.

John Kelly, Scotland regional officer, GMB, said: “There is a ‘blatant opportunism’ on the part of some of the oil companies and contractors in seeking to fundamentally attack the terms and conditions of our members employed in the offshore industry.

“There are also major concerns over the proposed changes to shift rotas and the health and safety implications that could follow from a major change.

“GMB believes that any changes to rotas could have a serious impact on the safety of those working offshore and we urge the companies to rethink the proposals.

“I intend to seek permission to consult members as to what response they want to see the union taking, including a ballot for industrial action if the companies do not pull back on unilateral cuts.”

The RMT union has also pledged to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with GMB and Unite members.

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