As many as 400 oil platform workers have stopped work for 24 hours in what is the largest industrial action in the North Sea for the last 28 years. The strikers are employed by Wood Group and operate seven Shell platforms. In addition to the 24-hour strike, the workers have approved a ban on overtime and further temporary suspensions of work in the coming weeks.
The reason for the strike are the new wage cuts planned by Wood Group, the organizers from the Unite and RMT unions told media, as well as a recent introduction of a three-week work cycle, to replace the two-week cycle workers have been used to. Platform workers took a vote to decide on whether to pursue industrial action.
Earlier this month, an Energy Aspects analyst told the New York Times that “Pressure is mounting not just in the North Sea but in many different regions for producers to start spending as oil prices rise.” Now, it seems, the Shell platform workers have had enough and even though oil prices are back below US$50, fast approaching US$40, they are determined to stand up for themselves.
Wood Group, the oilfield services company that employs the platforms’ labor force, cut wages earlier this year, in February, for about a third of its workforce, the BBC notes. The company then cited the harsh oil price environment, which made cost cuts necessary. Related: Why Are Oil Producers Rushing To The STACK?
One other union has backed the industrial action, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, whose general secretary Steve Cotton said on Friday, before the decision to strike had been made, that “Workers for Wood Group across Shell’s North Sea oil and gas platforms have overwhelmingly spoken. The company will now have to live with the consequences,” said Cotton. “Perhaps it will now see the need to reconsider its plans to slash the pay of these offshore workers, restrict their leave and increase their work – all on top of recent harmful redundancies.”
Further disgruntlement among workers was caused by a pay raise for Wood Group’s chief executive. RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash said, “"We are well aware that the company chief executive has had a pay increase of 28% to bring him up to £600,000. It is obscene that while the top bosses are lining their own pockets they are kicking the workforce from pillar to post.”
Wood Group’s CEO came out with a statement that lamented the decision of the unions but said the company respected the right of its employees to strike. A Shell spokesman said the platform owner was also disappointed with the decision, noting that the competitiveness of North Sea oil may become compromised by the action.
By Irina Slav For Oilprice.com
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