Politicians and offshore bosses met in Aberdeen for a “crisis summit” on Monday of this week to discuss more tax breaks to “save” the industry following a slump in oil prices.
But North Sea offshore worker Ian told Socialist Worker it’s not the whole story.
Industry bosses have laid off hundreds of workers in recent months, blaming the drop in oil prices. But Ian saidit is just an excuse to force through changes to working conditions - and it is an attack on safety.
The two weeks on three weeks off shift system worked by directly employed staff is being changed to three on three off.
“There is a lot of resentment about this,” Ian said, adding, “It took a long time to improve from the 2-on-2-off historic rota, bearing in mind Norway has 2-on-4-off and always has better conditions.”
“The companies have wanted to impose these shift patterns for a long time. But a Health and Safety Executive commissioned study in 2010 found that the risk of severe injuries occurred when working on the third week offshore.”
Ian said he thought when the oil price improves again the shifts would just stay the same. He said that subcontractors are also cutting back.
“They have cut a lot of rotations out so many trades will not be replaced by the next shift rotation. They will do 2 or 3 weeks then just pick up when they come back and no one else will replace them.
“This obviously costs jobs but the redundancies, often of experienced staff, and cuts to projects and maintenance will inevitably lead to a poorer safety record.”
New rules for offshore helicopter transfers, following a series of fatal crashes in recent years and safety demands from trade unions, come into effect in April this year.
These mean all workers must be able to fit through the nearest escape window and means larger workers have to sit by the door.
“In practice this means the helicopters will need to run with less people in them and that means more flights per year and more cost to the operator,” said Ian.
He added, “We suspect that the changes to working patterns are in part a response to this – the operators are trying to save money by running less flights.
“These are short-sighted cuts and will make a dangerous job worse. We should stand up and resist them.”