Oil multinational Shell was hit by a strike of 400 workers on seven of its offshore platforms on Tuesday—the first North Sea strike in 28 years.
Unite and RMT union members downed tools in protest at contractor Wood Group’s plan to cut jobs, pay and conditions on its Shell contract.
Some workers could see their pay cut by 30 percent while others face the threat of redundancy for the third time in 12 months.
A series of three-hour stoppages were set to take place on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The vote to strike was 99 percent on an 86 percent turnout.
More than 75,000 jobs have been slashed across the industry. Workers are now offshore for longer for no extra money—or even less.
And the cuts are having a wider impact. Food banks are now commonplace in once-booming oil city Aberdeen.
Bosses’ attempt to undermine the strike and get workers off the rigs onto helicopters backfired when workers refused.
Wood Group worker Frank told Socialist Worker, “They tried to pull a fast one by sending out the chopper.
“Some guys had already been out 27 days—a consequence of the three-week shift patterns—but they didn’t budge. They were testing our resolve.
“It also meant the Wood Group HR staff that are out there were left stranded during the strike.”
Wood Group recently won a five-year £150 million contract for North Sea operations.
Yet it wants workers to accept more cuts while its chief executive grabs a 28 percent pay rise to bring him up to £600,000 a year.
Contractors such as Wood Group do the oil barons’ dirty work. They have used the 2014 oil price drop as an excuse to reshape the industry and maintain the flow of profits.
Shell and other oil multinationals whine that times are tough so workers must pay.
But it’s hard to feel the pain of a firm such as BP, which has made £550 million profit in the past three months. Shell was to announce its second quarter profits this Thursday.
The “cost-cutting” that energy analysts celebrate is creating ticking time bombs. Last year North Sea platforms saw a four-fold rise in the backlog of maintenance.
Frank said, “They want around 60 redundancies. They’re getting rid of mechanics, sparks and more.
“But who is going to do the maintenance? This is the same shit that happened before the Piper Alpha rig went up.”
Workers are now largely forced onto longer three-week rotations offshore.
They already work long shifts as part of a 24-hour production cycle.
Fatigue in the third week offshore poses a huge potential danger as workloads also increase.
Offshore workers are watching the Wood Group dispute.
The unions must not back down—escalating the action is the only way to win.