Workers employed by Wood Group on Shell North Sea oil and gas platforms struck for 48 hours last week against new cuts to their pay and conditions—and are set to step up the action (see below).
It was the Unite and RMT union members’ second joint strike in as many weeks.
Bosses want to slash benefits such as training, sick pay and travel, as well as pay. All in workers face a 30 percent cut and around 60 of them could lose their jobs.
It is part of an employer’s offensive that has used a downturn in global oil prices to cut jobs and impose worse conditions to maintain profits.
Offshore contractors are the ones doing the dirty work but the major firms are behind it. The Wood Group dispute is no different. “It’s Shell that are pulling the strings in the background,” Wood Group worker Frank told Socialist Worker.
He said the undercutting by rival contractors is “one reason why I’m losing my job”. Frank said the firm Archer that is taking over the services contract employs people “on less than half the money we’re on”.
The crisis is having a big impact in Aberdeen. Shock new figures reveal a 33 percent rise in people applying for a crisis grant from the Scottish government. Some 7,750 people applied for one in 2015/16—just 250 short of Edinburgh, a city of comparable wealth but over double the population.
It is also undermining safety. Hydrocarbon releases were up almost 10 percent last year and there is a dangerous backlog of safety critical maintenance.
Shell insists the strikes are having no impact on its operations but this is questionable.
The workers are involved in crewing services for everything from the helidecks to unloading boats to bringing food supplies. “Imagine it’s like a wee town,” Frank said.
But the everyday essentials must be delivered hundreds of miles offshore.
A continuing overtime ban is starting to bite. Offshore worker Geoff said on his platform deck crew refused to unload a boat and “we never bunkered fresh water”.
This was last weekend. Harsh weather conditions could delay another delivery until Wednesday.
He said, “We are now running out of potable water. The laundry is shut. We have to re-use towels, no clean clothes and no long showers.” It would seem workers’ action is causing a bigger stink than bosses are letting on.
Frank said, “They’re obviously worrying about it escalating.”
He said there is talk of them clearing workers off the rig before more action takes place but they would require helicopters to land first.
Unofficial action in the 1990s could provide an example, said Frank. “We just stuck a container on the helideck and nothing could land.”
As other contractors announce more jobs cuts the Wood Group workers provide a shining example of how workers can hit back at the bosses.
New strike dates
Wood Group workers on seven Shell platforms are preparing to down tools over the next few weeks
Crew on the Curlew strike on 15, 22, and 29 August
Brent Alpha and Bravo go out on 16, 23 and 30 August
Nelson, Gannet and Shearwater strike on 17, 24 and 31 August
Brent Charlie faces a series of two six-hour stoppages a day on 16, 20, 23, 27, and 30 August and 3 September