Rank and file offshore workers staged a day of protest in Aberdeen today, Tuesday, over job losses and bosses’ attacks on workers’ terms and conditions.
Members of the RMT, Unite and GMB unions joined the action wearing masks to protect their identities. They toured companies based in the oil city that are making workers do longer shifts with less time off, threatening safety offshore.
Offshore union activist and protest organiser Harry told Socialist Worker, “We had workers out protesting today who face the uncertainty of redundancy, some that have already lost their jobs and supporters too.”
More action is being organised for the coming weeks. “Today is a building block for future action and we’re going to ramp it up and go again,” Harry said.
Over 65,000 jobs have been axed by the oil barons since the slump in prices. Bosses have moved to impose new worse contracts to protect their profits that see workers doing three weeks on, three weeks off.
Fear of redundancy is critically undermining offshore health and safety, say unions, as workers become reluctant to report actual and potential safety breaches.
And as bosses cut costs thousands of hours of maintenance work is being left undone. Recent safety scares on offshore installations have underlined the dangers the workers face.
Only last month the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) slapped an improvement notice on oil giant BP over a “suspected” leak last October during a shutdown for maintenance. HSE said BP “failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the uncontrolled release of flammable gas”.
A lack of serious action from the unions has left workers frustrated but still determined to fight. Harry said, “The dog has been bitten far too many times over these last couple of years. But now the dog is ready to bite back and take the employers on.”
The protest came the day after five unions representing workers in the offshore industry came together to launch a new Offshore Coordinating Group (OCG) in response to the North Sea crisis.
The Unite, RMT, GMB, Balpa and Nautilus unions have formed the alliance as a “united voice of the offshore workforce”. The move was supported STUC general secretary Grahame Smith who said, “The OCG will support the fightback on jobs, safety and terms and conditions.”
The OCG is a very positive development that many in the rank and file have been demanding for some time. But it has to seek to be more than just a united voice and organise united action.
Harry agreed, “We’re really pleased to see the OCG formed but it can’t just be another talking shop. It will be important to have lay members properly represented because it’s time to get organised.”