'Tsunami' of strikes to hit North Sea output: Union

  • Market: Crude oil, Natural gas
  • 03/20/23

Around 1,400 UK North Sea oil and gas workers have voted to strike in a series of separate disputes over pay and working conditions. The prospective walkouts could bring "dozens of platforms" to a "standstill in a matter of weeks", the Unite trade union said today.

The "tsunami of industrial unrest" will affect some of the UK's biggest oil and gas operators including BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Harbour Energy, Enquest and Ithaca Energy, according to Unite. The 1,400 workers are employed by five service firms — Bilfinger, Stork Construction, Petrofac, Wood Group and Sparrows Offshore Services.

Unite said it expects several platforms and offshore installations will have to shut because of the specialised roles of the striking workers. They include electrical, production and mechanical technicians, as well as deck crew, crane operators, pipefitters and riggers.

Around 700 Bilfinger workers have voted to down tools in a dispute over pay, while 350 Stork Construction workers have agreed to walk out over working rotas and pay rates. Around 50 Petrofac employees working on the FP1 facility that serves Ithaca's Stella field have voted to strike over holiday entitlements and about 80 Wood Group workers stationed on platforms operated by Abu Dhabi-based Taqa are taking industrial action over a wage cut imposed during the oil price slump in 2015.

Previously announced ballots by Sparrows employees will result in walkouts by a further 200 workers on more than 20 platforms operated by the likes of BP, Shell, Apache and Harbour Energy. Some of the Sparrows workers will be staging a series of 24-, 48- and 72-hour stoppages from 29 March to 7 June, but for the most part Unite has not set strike dates for the various disputes. Two more industrial ballots are due to be held this week involving another 80 Petrofac workers on BP platforms and around 50 employees of UK-based Worley Services who work on Harbour Energy platforms.

Wage disputes have plagued the UK's offshore sector for months as soaring company profits coincide with a sharp inflation-driven squeeze on living standards for workers.

"Oil and gas companies have been given free rein to enjoy massive windfall profits in the North Sea," Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said. "1,400 offshore workers are now set to take strike action against these employers who are raking it in but refusing to give them a fair share of the pie."


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