Union calls for North Sea industry summit

Unite, Scotland’s biggest union, has called for a cross-sector oil and gas summit to “plan for the industry’s survival and growth” after Shell announced it will cut another 475 North Sea jobs.

The union warned that “if the current rate of jobs attrition in the oil and gas sector continues, with 150 jobs going every day since the barrel price downturn, there will be no viable North Sea oil industry within a decade.”

Unite Scotland called on the governments in Edinburgh and Westminster to do more to save the industry “beginning by convening a cross-sector oil and gas summit to plan for the industry’s survival and growth.”

The union urged Shell to halt its job cut program, which continued on Wednesday with the announcement that a further 2,200 jobs will be lost worldwide, 475 of them in the UK and Ireland.

“Despite the improvements that we have made to our business, current market conditions remain challenging,” said Paul Goodfellow, Shell’s vice president for UK & Ireland.

The union said Shell has announced 12,000 jobs losses in the last 18 months “leading to concerns over manning levels, worker morale and health and safety.”

Unite’s John Boland said: “We have very real fears that Shell cannot continue to operate safely offshore if it keeps shedding the workers tasked with ensuring our oil industry is safe and sustainable.

“The Oil and Gas Confederation (OGC), of which we are members, has called time and again for an oil and gas sector summit to be convened urgently.

“So far the call has fallen on deaf ears but both the Scottish and Westminster governments must wake up to what is happening to this vital sector.

“They cannot stand-by while a vital industry’s demise takes place on their watch.”

Unite claims offshore oil and gas companies are using the downturn to impose “regressive working practices across the North Sea.”

It claims the industry moved quickly to cut pay and holiday entitlement following the sharp drop in the price of oil.

It said more than 65,000 offshore jobs have been cut since oil prices began to fall almost two years ago — a rate of 150 jobs lost per day.

Boland added:  “Oil companies must drop the attrition strategy — stop cutting jobs and attacking workers’ terms and conditions.

“It is time to take stock because this industry is heading to a situation whereby it will have lost the very skilled and experienced workers it will need to deal with the upturn.

“Unite does not accept that the job losses reported are a direct consequence of market conditions.

“There is a real attempt to use this as an opportunity to cut jobs and attack workers’ pay and working conditions.

“We will not allow this attempt at smoke and mirrors to detract from what is, in actual fact, a race to the bottom on costs, but with the added risk of another health and safety catastrophe.”