OCG position on Covid-19

Circular No: NP/078/20


27th March 2020

Dear Colleagues

Offshore oil and gas workers – COVID-19 Update

I am writing to update RMT members in the offshore oil and gas sector of the work your Union has been carrying out on your behalf as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds on a backdrop of low oil prices.


At a HSE / OGUK standing meeting this week the following issues raised by RMT members were discussed:

•              Co-ordination between the government instructions and offshore working

•              Standardised checks a week before going offshore

•              Clarity to the workforce on who are key personnel and that offshore are classed as key personnel for the energy supply.

•              How will key personnel get to the heliport and then how will people get home? (Car parks are closing near the heliport(t

•              Social distancing at the heliports is not working.

•              Everyone sitting on the same seat that’s not being cleaned, the person doing the checks is wearing no PPE

•              Will the OGUK flow chart on helicopter travel be shown to the workforce has it been shared?

•              Cabin sharing: can a concerted industry wide effort be made to have day and night shifts sharing and work scopes made to fit this. 

•              Will there be more support staff to allow staggered breaks to avoid mess hall congesting and more people on night shift?

•              Alcohol hand sanitiser is needed offshore and heliports

•              Are all offshore assets following the Safety Rep and Safety Committee regulations SI-971 Reg. 23 c ii & iii by consulting the safety reps in good time?

•              What is being done about there being only one medic offshore?

•              The industry is still going ahead with onshore training; could refresher dates be extended during this period, or use remote online training?

The RMT is pressing the Government to have a Covid-19 testing ability for all personnel mobilising offshore.

JOBS AND CONDITIONS               

Your Union has been working hard to raise the offshore oil and gas workers’ key employment and safety issues during the COVID-19 crisis which has coincided with another collapse in the oil price due to geo-political tensions between OPEC countries and Russia.

As current chair of the Offshore Co-ordinating Group (OCG) of trade unions, RMT has been at the forefront of drawing up the statement of demands (attached to this circular) which has applied pressure on the employers body Oil and Gas UK and the commercial regulator the Oil and Gas Authority to agree joint actions with the trade unions to protect all our members’ health, jobs and skills during this crisis.

The Union has promoted the OCG statement at the same time as taking the initiative with UK and Scottish Government Ministers over the employment, safety and helicopter transport measures we need to see enacted, now to ameliorate the economic impact of COVID-19 on offshore workers. We are clear that our members on installations and across the supply chain should qualify for full protection, including those who are self-employed.

Like RMT members across the shipping, ports, rail, bus and road transport sectors, offshore oil and gas workers are key to the national economy, crisis or no crisis and this should be reflected in their treatment. A failure to protect now the key personnel that keep the lights on across the country will lead to catastrophic job losses, skills shortages, premature decommissioning, increased reliance on imported oil and gas and the failure to meet statutory carbon reduction targets.

Offshore members should also be aware that OPITO have introduced extension period for renewing your certification to work offshore. OPITO have produced detailed guidance here for self-sponsoring and employed offshore staff who need to refresh their certification but are unable to due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Following the announcement in the Budget on 11th March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been forced to shelve his plan to extend IR-35 status for contractors in the offshore oil and gas industry. It is now due to come into force on 6th April 2021.

The RMT is pressing to have all offshore energy workers covered as furloughed workers and to be in receipt of the Job Retention Scheme payment guaranteeing 80% of average salary, including those workers isolating for 12 weeks due to underlying conditions.

I would be grateful if you would share this with members in your branch or region and I will keep you informed of all further developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash General Secretary