25 March 2020
RMT Press Office:
OFFSHORE union RMT demanded action now to save workers’ jobs and skills from the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 and the collapse in the price of oil to under $25 per barrel in a letter sent today to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
“We have written to the Chancellor because our members in the offshore oil and gas sector are being ignored by government in this time of national crisis.
“The offshore trade unions have a central role to play in protecting our skilled offshore and supply chain workers from the effects of the pandemic and the international oil crisis.
“The government has to take steps, now to work with us all to formulate an emergency industrial strategy that saves oil and gas jobs from cut throat competition and builds the foundations for sustainable recovery. After being treated like expendable assets during the last oil price crisis, offshore workers deserve this basic level of protection of their wages, health and skills.”
Notes for editors
Full text of letter
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rt Hon. Rishi Sunak MP
1 Horse Guards Road
London SW1A 2HQ
Our Ref: S6/1/20
25th March 2020
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Offshore Workers’ Access
I am writing to seek urgent clarification from Government on the terms of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which you announced last week and to demand broader actions to protect workers in the offshore oil and gas industry.
RMT welcomed your announcement in a joint statement with the UK Chamber of Shipping and our sister union Nautilus International. We have followed this matter up in a joint letter to you earlier today concerning the position of UK seafarers.
The purpose of this letter, however, is to highlight the serious concerns we have for our members working in the offshore oil and gas sector who are facing the economic impact from the recent collapse in oil prices on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, nearly 75% of North Sea workers were employed by contractors. They are the catering, engineering, technicians, drilling crews and other grades we rely on to discover and exploit offshore oil and gas resources. They are also supported by a major supply chain of skilled UK based workers including commercial dive crews and together they reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels.
To date, we have seen nothing specific from the Government that offshore oil and gas workers can reply on in this fast deteriorating situation. It is no exaggeration to say that without effective action to retain jobs and skills in the offshore sector, we will see a dramatic loss in capacity that will scar our economy and society for the long term.
RMT urgently seeks dialogue with the Government over measures to protect jobs, skills, safety and the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry. Due to the urgency of our members’ circumstances, we submit the following demands to start this discussion:
1. The Oil and Gas Authority to take over ownership and operation of installations in the event of North Sea operators going out of business, as part of a new industrial strategy for offshore oil and gas.
2. Government funded support for the payment of wages and sick pay schemes for all offshore workers across production, drilling and Subsea sectors and other supply chain workers who lose jobs or contracts due to the Coronavirus or from the collapse in oil prices.
3. Confirm key worker status for offshore oil and gas staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the long term.
4. Impose a standard 2 weeks-on 3 weeks-off rota across all North Sea installations, in order to sustain employment and increase trainee/apprentice numbers.
5. Direct regulatory intervention to prevent any further, dangerous increases in commercial pressure on offshore helicopter transport operations.
Once we emerge from the other side of this crisis, the Government should also take two, immediate steps.
Firstly, prepare for the Energy Division of the Health and Safety Executive to undertake a full safety audit of North Sea oil and gas assets on the UKCS, including the clearance of all backlogs of safety maintenance work. Secondly, design and introduce a Just Transition Fund, in dialogue with trade unions and the Scottish Government to re-train workers across the UK offshore oil and gas supply chain to meet growing demand from renewables, Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage and the decommissioning industry.
The issues facing offshore workers across the North Sea also cut across Government. As such, we seek an urgent offshore summit with trade unions, ministers and officials from the relevant departments to ensure that jobs and skills are protected in the long term from the ‘perfect storm’ which is threatening to engulf the sector.
We look forward to your early reply.
CC Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for BEIS
CC Rt. Hon Therese Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
CC Rt. Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport
CC Kemi Badenoch MP, Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury