OIL bosses have failed to learn the lessons of the 1988 Piper Alpha rig disaster, unions said yesterday as offshore workers prepared to fight off a new assault on terms and conditions.
Mega-contractor the Wood Group, which operates platforms in the Shell-owned Brent oil field off the east coast of Scotland, has announced a consultation on removing all benefits for workers that go beyond basic industry-wide standards.
It was reported at the weekend that an unofficial strike had broken out on the Shearwater rig in the Brent field. Both union and industry sources said reports were “inaccurate.”
But unions said workers could take official action if bosses ride roughshod over their protestations.
Aberdeen-based Unite officer Tommy Campbell said: “There is a growing appetite among the offshore workers for saying ‘enough is enough.’
“This is yet another example of a major operator passing down the pain with cuts to their workers. It’s all about protecting the profits of major oil companies at the expense of offshore workers’ terms and conditions.”
It is understood that reps will meet Wood Group managers on Friday to put the workers’ case against the proposals.
“If there is an appetite for fighting back, then we will follow the legal ballot procedures and the workforce can be sure of Unite’s support in their stand to protect their pay and conditions.”
The proposals are the Wood Group’s third pay cut in two years.
Expenses, sick pay, overtime benefits and extra allowances for nightshifts and Christmas holiday working are also under threat, and bosses are proposing a “headcount reduction.”
A spokeswoman for the Wood Group said: “We continuously review our resource requirements to meet our customer needs and drive efficiency and effectiveness in our service provision.
“Wood Group PSN management is working closely with our employees impacted by these proposed measures, our client and the GMB and Unite unions during this period of consultation.”
But Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “It is approaching 30 years since the horrific Piper Alpha disaster, yet it seems that the oil and gas industry has learned little from the world’s worst offshore disaster where 167 workers lost their lives.
“Employers must not respond to the current downturn in this industry’s fortunes by putting people in a position of risk.”
A crisis in the North Sea prompted by the plummeting oil price has seen jobs and conditions slashed by numerous companies.