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UK oil and gas workers to embark on first North Sea strike in a generation

21 July, 2016Almost 400 members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliates Unite and the RMT at multinational oil and gas services company Wood Group will take industrial action on 26 July in a dispute over 30 per cent pay cuts and changes to allowances.

The workers are employed by Wood Group across eight Shell oil and gas platforms in the Brent Field, located of the coast off Shetland in the North Sea. The workers will take strike action on 26 July – the first North Sea strike in a generation.

They will also be taking action short of strike action. The first 24-hour stoppage will on Tuesday July 26 and will be followed by a series of other stoppages over the following weeks.

The strike follows a massive 99.1 per cent vote in favour of strike action by Unite members and 98.5 per cent by RMT members on a very high turnout. This is a resounding endorsement and support of the action. 

Recent changes have seen workers move from a two-week working cycle to a three-week working cycle, which means working extra weeks offshore for the same salary. Wood Group employees used to enjoy the same conditions as Shell employees, but they have seen these undermined.

RMT regional organizer Jake Molloy said: “We have a long history of good relations in the North Sea. The last time we had a dispute was 27 years ago, and some of the workers involved then are involved this time too. Workers are clearly very angry, because it feels like all the progress we made has been torn up.

“It is time the UK oil and gas sector got in line with the Scandinavian countries and reduced hours for health and safety reasons.”

The planned strike follows a breakdown in talks at the ACAS employment arbitrator, after Wood Group showed little willingness to resolve the dispute.

Unite regional officer John Boland said: “Strike action by our members is not a decision they take lightly, but they have been pushed to the limit by an employer unwilling to rethink proposals to slash their pay and allowances.

“These members work in some of the most hazardous conditions in one of the toughest jobs in the world and deserve better than Wood Group’s bogus claims that their proposed pay cuts won’t amount to much.”

The strike action will be taken across the Shell assets in the Brent Field. Unite and the RMT will co-ordinate the strike action to ensure the maximum impact. The Offshore Coordinating Group, made up of all the unions in the sector, including GMB, BALPA and Nautilus International, are working to support the action and ensure coordination.

The unions remain committed to achieving a negotiated settlement in this dispute and will leave the door open for Wood Group to enter into meaningful negotiations.

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL general secretary, sent a letter to the affiliates, saying:

“IndustriALL Global Union deplores in the strongest terms Wood Group’s proposal to impose severe pay and allowances cuts on a hardworking as well as highly skilled workforce.

“We demand that Wood Group desist from its intransigent stance and enter into meaningful negotiations with Unite and the RMT, to reach a fair deal. “

Take action

Please send messages of support to North Sea workers taking strike action on Tuesday 26 July. You can do this by emailing a message of support to [email protected] and [email protected].

You can also show support and follow developments on the Unite Offshore Facebook page and on Twitter @UniteOffshore.

All messages of support are welcome.