GMB Union Calls for Strike Action in UK North Sea


GMB announced Thursday that a strike ballot will go ahead after talks failed to resolve a dispute over changes to terms for offshore workers in UK waters.

The union, along with Unite officials, held talks Wednesday with the Offshore Contractors’ Association about changes to employment conditions for workers covered by the Offshore Contract Agreement, including changes to offshore workers’ shift rotations.

GMB National Officer David Hulse commented in a union statement:

“We did make some progress… but sadly not enough to enable us to go back to members with proposals to resolve this dispute. We will now have to proceed with organizing an official ballot for industrial action as the members asked us to do in a consultative ballot earlier this year.

“We will concentrate now on making the necessary arrangements to enable us to go ahead with EBRS [Electoral Ballot Reform Society] for independent ballot for action. We remain available for talks should the employers want to pull back from going ahead with the unilateral changes to working practices that has provoked this dispute.”

Bill Murray, chief executive of the Offshore Contractors’ Association, which represents the offshore industry, responded: 

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s decision by trade union officials to go to an industrial ballot. The industry as a whole recognizes the need to make efficiencies and increase productivity in order to extend the life of the UK North Sea and maintain jobs in the sector. The offer we put on the table today – worth between an extra GBP 1,600 [$2,500] and GBP 8,000 [$12,500] per annum per individual – can only be paid for through productivity increases.”

“In its World Economic Outlook the International Monetary Fund highlighted that the UK has the highest operating costs of any oil-producing country in the world. Even as the barrel price recovers there are other parts of the world that will be better placed to take advantage of this if we don’t manage our costs.
“Changes to equal time shift rotation are designed to reduce handovers and logistics costs and are not new to the North Sea. Any productivity changes required will be subject to change management and risk assessment and the unions have been offered the opportunity to participate in this.”

“With inflation at an all-time low today’s offer outweighs wage increases in other sectors. Strike action will only serve to make investment in the North Sea less attractive and jeopardize the long-term future of the industry.”

Following the news, energy industry body Oil & Gas UK was hopeful that both sides could reach an agreement.

“Oil & Gas UK is deeply disappointed to learn that union officials have today decided to go to strike ballot. The door is still open to finding an agreement, and it is our hope is that both sides can reach an understanding that will safeguard the long term future of our industry,” an Oil & Gas UK spokesperson said in a statement.



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