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Standing firm

Action set to continue after first North Sea strike in a generation
Hajera Blagg, Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Wood Group oil workers, around 400 members of Unite and the RMT, staged a solid strike on Tuesday (July 26) in what was the first North Sea strike in three decades.


The 24-hour stoppage was in defiance against the Wood Group’s plans to slash pay and allowances which would amount to as much as a 30 per cent cut for a substantial part of the workforce.


The oil workers are also standing up to the company’s changes to working cycles, from a two-week rota to three weeks. This move, Unite has argued, is not only dangerous because it can lead to fatigue which can become a serious health and safety issue in a high-risk work environment, but it also means workers spend longer periods of time away from their families without any additional pay.


Yesterday’s strike comes on the heels of an overtime ban which started on Monday (July 25).


Striking on platforms

It wasn’t your usual strike on Tuesday, as workers taking part in industrial action on oil platforms don’t form picket lines and don’t wave signs and banners, as there’s no one on the platform to see them.


Instead, workers simply do not report to work – they gather in an assigned area of their platform, usually a games room, cinema or meeting room for the duration of their 12-hour shift and afterwards they return to their cabins, BBC Scotland reported.


They spent their day playing card games and quizzes, while also reading the many messages of support they’ve received from around the globe, including from countries as far away Mexico and the United States, as well as Norway and Germany, among others.


Writing on behalf of the Utility Workers of America Union, its president Michael Langford noted that his union fully supports the industrial actions planned by Unite and RMT oil workers at Wood Group in response to what he called “management’s intransigent and unjust bargaining demands”.


“Please keep us informed about your progress in this dispute and concerning any solidarity actions that we can undertake to support your cause,” he wrote.


Unite regional officer John Boland explained the measures set in place during the strike.


“There have been ongoing discussions between our shop stewards and the management on the actual platforms,” he told the BBC as workers prepared for the strike.


“It’s been arranged [there will be] designated areas where our members will go while they are taking industrial action.


“Obviously this is a safety issue as well, so they are in areas which are safe for them,” he added.


“But also we have said to Shell and Wood Group that in the case of an unforeseen emergency happening then any of our members who are members of emergency response teams will respond.


“They are in an area where they can be contacted if necessary.”


Global support

Boland hailed yesterday’s strike an enormous success with lots of support from all sides.


“Yesterday’s solid strike showed the brave resolve of our members who are fighting tooth-and-nail to protect their jobs, pay, terms and conditions,” he said.


“Taking into account that this is the first North Sea strike in a generation, these workers do not take industrial action lightly – it is the intransigence of management that has pushed them over the edge.


“The wholehearted support we’ve received from trade unions, ministers and other organisations from across the globe demonstrates to all that Wood Group has gone a step too far.”


“Creating a race to the bottom on pay and conditions for the oil and gas workforce – as is happening now across the North Sea – is not the way to create a sustainable industry that thinks in terms of long-term success,” Boland added. “Short-term cost-cutting of Wood Group and others will be the death-knell of the future of the North Sea.


“While we are open to continued talks, let us be clear – our members are standing firm against this attack on their livelihoods.”


Industrial action against Wood Group is set to continue – a series of further three-hour stoppages are taking place on the seven oil platforms today (July 28), Friday (July 29), Saturday (July 30) and Sunday (July 31), as well as on Tuesday, August 2.


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