Dispute in North Sea deepens as Wood Group digs in on pay cuts

Workers cite the size of pay cuts being proposed as reason for dispute 

OVER 300 North Sea oil workers who are members of the RMT and Unite trade unions will begin a 48-hour strike from tomorrow 4 Aug, in protest at cuts in pay and conditions by their employer, the Wood Group.

This will be the second industrial action announced by the unions and will be supported by more protests at Shell’s London head office tomorrow.

Unite and RMT have together called for the Wood Group to drop its cuts to pay and allowances and hold further talks to resolve the ongoing dispute.

The cuts, which in some cases amount to a 30 per cent drop in pay in allowances, triggered a 24-hour stoppage on Tuesday 26 July backed by a series of additional three-hour stoppages, which was the first industrial action in the North Sea for nearly 30 years.

"Wood Group needs to drop the cuts and get back round the table with us if it genuinely wants to avoid further industrial action." John Bowland

Unite regional officer John Boland said: “Industrial action is always a last resort and throughout this dispute the trade unions have sought to find a resolution in direct talks with Wood Group and at the conciliation service, Acas. 

"However, the solid action and the support that the workers received is a clear demonstration of the strength of feeling and their resolve to resist these attacks on pay and allowances. 

"The cuts in take home pay come on top of the imposition of job losses and major changes, such as the potentially unsafe shift to three week blocks of working offshore.

"The workforce is clearly of the view that enough is enough. 

"Wood Group needs to move away from constantly attacking the terms and conditions of its workforce and move on to a more positive agenda of working with the unions to overcome the problems affecting the offshore oil industry.

"Wood Group needs to drop the cuts and get back round the table with us if it genuinely wants to avoid further industrial action."

The Wood Group in June this year, despite making over 5,000 job cuts last August, snapped up part of the collapsed Aberdeen firm Enterprise Engineering after the company entered administration.

Wood Group provides the plumbing for the likes of BP and Shell which explore for, and refine, oil. Its workers build and support the vital engineering and technical infrastructure needed to extract and transport oil from the North Sea.

The workers are employed by Wood Group to provide offshore engineering and maintenance services on seven Shell oil fields in the North Sea. As a result the strike will affect the Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Nelson, Gannet, Shearwater and Curlew platforms.

The first strike, covered by CommonSpace, last week, week saw declarations of support from trade unionists across the globe, including those working in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, and was accompanied by demonstrations at Wood Group locations in Aberdeen.

"The workforce is clearly of the view that enough is enough." John Bowland

The Wood Group in June this year, despite making over 5,000 job cuts last August, snapped up part of the collapsed Aberdeen firm Enterprise Engineering after the company entered administration.

Wood Group said the Aberdeen-based manufacturing and fabrication units of the almost 50-year-old firm would add services to its broader oilfield offerings and form part of its plan to weather the downturn by improving efficiencies while cutting costs.

The North Sea’s oilfield service industry has been particularly hard hit by the oil price crash because the companies rely on revenue from explorers that have slashed spending in a bid to shore up their balance sheets.

However, analysis from oil experts Rystad energy had suggested that Wood Group is expected to benefit from its global reach, and from its connections to the US shale industry and its Australian acquisitions.

In Scotland, 57 per cent of companies surveyed within the industry and its supply chain said they had been severely or quite badly affected by the slump in oil prices.

The Bank of Scotland/Lloyds Banking Group oil report for 2015-2016 took industry opinion between December and February.

It showed a third of businesses planned to cut jobs further during this year and of the 141 companies surveyed, 51 per cent made redundancies in the past year, for Scottish firms, that was true of 63 per cent.

More than four in 10 of the UK's oil and gas firms plan to cut costs further in response to the downturn in the industry, according to survey evidence. 

Additionally only one new job in the oil and gas sector was created for every six jobs lost in 2015.

In Scotland, 57 per cent of companies surveyed within the industry and its supply chain said they had been severely or quite badly affected by the slump in oil prices.

Picture courtesy of Engineering at Cambridge 

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