Socialist Worker

North Sea divers' strike wins 45 percent pay rise

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2027

More than 900 striking North Sea divers and support staff voted to accept a 44.7 percent pay increase over two years from employers on Friday of last week, ending a ten-day strike.

The RMT union said 84 percent had voted to accept the pay deal.

Derek Moore, an RMT regional organiser, spent the past 20 years diving in treacherous conditions in the North Sea. He said, “It isn’t the rough weather, freezing temperatures or the eight-hour dives carrying out installation and maintenance work on oil rigs, that are the most gruelling aspects - it’s the experience of living in a saturation chamber for a month at a time.

“These chambers, situated on support vessels, are the size of a small room, housing six men and allowing them to live under pressure so they are able to undertake multiple dives, at greater depths, over longer periods. They have one decompression period of up to six days at the end of a 20-day period.

“The chambers are about 4.5 metres long by two metres wide, with bunk beds, a toilet and shower and a communal table squeezed into the space.

“Inmates are cut off from the outside world, with no phones and only a porthole to look through. The main entertainment is a 12 inch television.

“You’ve actually got less space than the minimum requirement that Amnesty International lays down for prisoners.”

After rejecting a 37 percent pay rise over three years, the divers went on strike on 1 November, demanding a 50 percent rise. Most divers work on a freelance basis and experienced divers can earn up to £46,000 a year. However, they have to pay for their own safety certification and training, which can cost up to £20,000.

Stan Herschel, who led the negotiations for the RMT said, “The divers work in appalling conditions and take tremendous risks. I believe the offer on the table now reflects their true value.

“Obviously, we’ll be seeking further improvements as time goes on, but at last we have addressed the situation to a degree of satisfaction.”

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Article information

Sat 18 Nov 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2027
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