OIL bosses are taking advantage of market turmoil to lobby rival drillers for a North Sea-wide attack on workers’ rights, union reps claimed yesterday.
The sensational revelation came amid a call from a top boss for a “significant reduction in the headline rate (of tax)” for the industry in Wednesday’s Budget.
Wood Group supremo Sir Ian Wood said failing to address the downturn in the North Sea fields — which high operating costs have made particularly vulnerable to the falling oil price — would lead to “irreversible damage.”
In a bid to cut costs, a number of firms are forcing workers on to shift patterns that see them working 21 days continuously followed by a three-week break. The current pattern is two weeks on, three weeks off.
The plans are being resisted by unions Unite, GMB and RMT, which all organise in the sector.
Mr Wood said: “I reckon if we don’t begin to recover the confidence in 2015 then I think that the 380,000 jobs could easily be down to 300,000 into 2016-17, so it’s a very important moment to try and turn the tide.”
But RMT organiser Jake Molloy called for “incentivised tax reductions, not tax reductions that will put money back in industry pockets.”
“We agree with the need to protect the industry, to protect jobs, terms and conditions,” he said.
“But you cannot expect us to call for a fiscal change if that fiscal change will not see a halt to the attacks that are going on against our members.”
He said he had been told that companies including Apache, Talisman Sinopec and Canadian Natural Resources, which are all pushing through the changes in their own companies, had taken the unusual step of interfering with competitors.
“These companies are now actively lobbying peers around the sector to try and convince them to move in the same direction,” he said.
“We think we can create a low-cost region, but not by cutting at the bottom, by cutting at the top.
“Not by attacking health and safety but by investing in logistics.”