Socialist Worker

Chopper close shave shows why offshore workers' fight for safety is needed

Issue No. 2536

The helicopter on the platform eventually stopped but very close to the edge

The helicopter on the platform came to a stop but close to the edge


Damage to the helideck

Damage to the helideck


If the last two years hadn’t been bad enough for offshore workers, then just before the turn of the year things got worse.

A helicopter shuttling workers between the Elgin and West Franklin platforms ran into difficulties resulting in the chopper coming inches away from falling into the sea.

The incident left severe gouges on the helideck of the Franklin platform and was a reminder of the dangers the workforce faces on a daily basis.

But safety costs money and we’ve seen those conditions become more and more dangerous as bosses cut maintenance, impose longer shift rotations and go for our terms and conditions.

Yet the only resistance has come from a small pocket of workers on Shell assets last year and a rank and file group called the Furies.

We are about to see another ballot, under the main OCA agreement, by the Unite and GMB unions.

The OCA has been traditionally considered a sweetheart deal. Unfortunately the unions involved don’t seem concerned enough with bettering their dwindling members’ terms and conditions.

Offshore catering workers, covered by another agreement, are set to be balloted on a pay freeze.

Partnership deals aren’t what trade unions should be getting into with employers.

Why should we have a full-on dispute over a small basic wage increase when clearly there are more pressing issues such as helicopter safety or the longer shift patterns bosses have imposed?

Maybe union officials can finally do something progressive and listen to their members and actually hold a coordinated dispute between the two agreements.

That could cause these oil companies some genuine disruption. The offshore workforce wants change.

The unions say educate the workforce. I say maybe it’s the unions that need educating.

James Furie

Aberdeen

Nationalism won’t beat the rail fat cats

I was disappointed to see a TSSA rail union video that highlights how European state-run rail companies profit from privatised railways in Britain being uncritically shared by the Labour left group Momentum.

This is because the video introduces us to a series of ordinary Europeans who thank us for this cash bonanza.

It looks like it blames them for our transport problems. This is a dangerous road for the labour movement to travel.

The people to blame are the politicians that privatised the railways—and refused to renationalise them.

Ordinary Europeans aren’t to blame—they should be the allies of British workers fighting for better services.

Workers in Europe have nothing in common with the bosses profiting from privatisation in Britain.

Rather than helping the fight for nationalised rail, this video risks undermining it, by pandering to a nationalist rhetoric.

Martin Empson

Manchester

UN Israel resolution is worth shouting about

I was in Palestine last year and saw for myself the huge expansion of Israeli settlements (Socialist Worker, 4 January).

Israel has seized most of the Jordan Valley for the exclusive use of settlers and their farming industries.

Palestinian farmers who try to remain have concrete poured down their wells to deprive them of their livelihoods.

What good can the UN Security Council’s recent resolution do to reverse this?

It states that the land occupied by Israel since 1967 has no legal validity.

This has also been in resolutions in the past, which Israel has ignored.

But its reappearance is timely and could boost the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

“Israeli” dates from the Jordan Valley could be no more.

Mary Brodbin

East London

Help for refugees

I read about the recent solidarity convoy to Calais (Socialist Worker, 14 December). Well done everyone. A friend who lives near Limoges in France told me of all of the work she and groups of friends are doing to help refugees.

She told me of the support that French people are giving to refugees. They are taking them into their homes, taking them on visits, giving them French lessons and helping to furnish the accommodation that they are given.

Ordinary people everywhere want to help.

Judy Chan

on Facebook

Fund babies not bombs

The Scottish government launched its Baby Boxes scheme last week that gives every expectant mother a box of start-up supplies for a new baby.

The most important part is actually the box where the baby should sleep for its first months of life—this is believed to be key to help reduce cot deaths.

A universal benefit costing £6 million, it is hoped it will help fight increasing child poverty.

Opposition politicians dismissed it as an expensive stunt at a time of cutbacks but it is also being piloted in parts of England.

The cost is negligible by comparison with the billions spent on Trident.

And many in Scotland would rather have their taxes spent on babies not bombs!

Margaret Woods

Glasgow

Well done Phil Scraton

Just read that Phil Scraton who headed the Hillsborough Independent Panel has turned down an OBE.

This is unlike some trade union leaders who grab these establishment trinkets with both hands. Shame on them!

Well done Phil.

Alan McShane

by email

Is DOO really that safe?

The right wing press seem unable to read properly. They claim that driver only operation (DOO) has been declared safe and the rail unions are wrong.

But what the Office of Rail and Road said was that DOO “can be” safe “with suitable equipment, proper procedures, and competent staff in place”.

This is exactly what Southern rail bosses haven’t been doing.

Chris Marten

Littlehampton

Racist dies in prison

A man was doing a nine-month jail sentence for tying bacon to the door handles of a mosque in Bristol.

He also shouted racist abuse at a member of the mosque with his knuckle-dragging mates.

I note he died in prison just after Christmas. What a shame.

Alec Provan

Fife

Loans selloff is just wrong

The tories are at it again. Having failed a few years ago to sell off student loan debts they’re talking about having another go at it.

The £12 billion privatisation of certain loans could be attractive to life insurance companies.

Yet many students can’t afford to repay their debts for years or even decades.

And what’s to stop any of the vulture firms that buy these loans from jacking up interest rates in the future?

The debt should be scrapped and higher education should be run as a free public service for all.

Michelle Coyne

Birmingham


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