North Sea workers stage wildcat walkout in ‘wage revolution’

There was widespread disruption on several North Sea platforms on Wednesday after crew members staged an unplanned walkout.

Workers on installations including ETAP and Judy downed tools in an effort to force an increase to pay, in what has been described by some as a “wage revolution”.

It is understood the strikes were sparked by fabric maintenance workers on the TotalEnergies-operated Elgin platform and Safe Caledonia last night.

Bilfinger UK workers across several North Sea platforms announced plans to down tools as they sought a pay rise.

Wood workers on the BP-operated ETAP also chose not to work, while it is thought the Glen Lyon FPSO and the Taqa Tern Alpha are also impacted.

Energy Voice has seen a Telegram group documenting the strikes that has more than 650 members, including workers on Harbor Energy’s Judy platform.

It is also believed CNR International’s Tiffany installation has been impacted, as well as Tailwind Energy’s Triton FPSO.

Union boss Harvie © Supplied by BP
A worker looks out at BP’s ETAP platform in the North Sea

A spokesperson for Bilfinger UK said: “We understand that Bilfinger UK is one of a group of contractors with employees downing tools on assets in the North Sea. We are working closely with our clients and employees to resolve this as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for Wood said: “A number of Wood employees and subcontractors on the ETAP platform chose not to work as scheduled this morning. We have received no official notification of this activity and are looking into this matter, with a view to working closely with our client and employee representatives to ensure any grievances are managed via the appropriate processes. “

Workers are seeking an increase to base rates of £ 7 per hour to help with the surge in inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.

One person, who said he represents the wider group, said: “The cost of living has went up dramatically and the wages, on the other hand, have went down or stalled dramatically.”

He cited oil and gas company profits being “at an all-time high” as part of the justification for the action.

In recent weeks North Sea firms have reported bumper takings, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing commodity prices to highs not seen for years.

It has fueled calls for a windfall tax on the sector in order to ease the financial burden on households.

GMB Scotland organizer Dom Pritchard said: “The industrial unrest is not surprising – it’s the inevitable response to employers who have been racing to the bottom for years on pay and conditions.

“GMB has previously warned the industry that it needs to drag itself into the future, so it can retain and recruit the people who will deliver the oil and gas we need on the journey to net zero and beyond.

“Bluntly, the industry needs to snap out of it’s complacency and listen to the concerns of the workers it cannot do without.”

BP, Harbor Energy, Taqa, CNR, Tailwind and TotalEnergies have all been contacted for comment, as has the Unite union.

North East Green MSP Maggie Chapman backed the workers’ actions and raised the case for a windfall tax on oil and gas firms.

north sea workers © Supplied by DC Thomson
Maggie Chapman

She said: “Oil & gas corporations have been making record profits during a cost-of-living crisis.

“The workers that create these profits deserve pay that reflects the important and hard work that they do. I stand with them in their actions.

“It is high time we taxed these companies and their executives. We can do this through a short-term windfall tax and a longer-term wealth tax. For too long we have seen a two-speed economy in the North East where the wealth of our land and sea is hoarded by a few, whilst many work on low wages.

“I commend the people on these platforms for their strike action and will support them in Parliament.”

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