15 April 2020
RMT Press Office:
RMT demands Government intervention in North Sea energy industry over Coronavirus and low oil prices
OFFSHORE Union RMT today demanded Government intervention to save lives, jobs and energy resources in the North Sea from the dual economic ravages of Coronavirus and catastrophically low oil prices.
RMT members – and members of our Offshore Coordinating Group (OCG) affiliate sister unions – in offshore oil and gas and associated supply chains continue to battle the virus itself and employers who are attacking their jobs rather than engaging to protect the future of these vital operations.
From the standardisation of testing regimes to the furloughing of workers in the offshore oil and gas sector, employers are rushing to protect a failed economic model rather than the future of North Sea oil and gas operations.
Furlough protections have been secured for RMT members covered by the offshore catering and contractor agreements but these protections need to be extended immediately to all offshore workers, whether they are on a day rate, temporary or full time contract. More and more companies are issuing redundancy notices, especially in the key drilling sector where up to 1,000 jobs are at risk.
The Government must take stakes in the operator companies, from BP to Total to protect the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry, or face the economic and environmental catastrophe that will inevitably follow as oil multi-nationals simply up and leave the UK sector of the North Sea.
The delivery of ‘Corona Copters’ demanded by workers for evacuation of Covid-19 sufferers has been achieved but the reception facilities on installations and on land for offshore workers advised to self-isolate are often woeful and causing further spread of the infection in some cases.
Industry body OGUK’s response has been that a standardised approach promoting best practice cannot be achieved. The OCG Trade Unions will be asking OGUK to run a “Pandemic Steering Group” to look again at this issue as the different approaches are causing considerable concerns for workers across the sector. This denial of a basic standard approach is made all the worse as some workers now face disciplinary action for alleged breaches of these patently inadequate Covid-19 procedures.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT members have helped deliver government revenues of £52.765 billion and an average return of 13% on oil and gas investment since 2008, yet the industry is quite prepared to discard them and their families at this time of crisis.
“RMT offshore workers, including the drilling and dive teams we need to discover and exploit oil and gas resources under the North Sea, will be instrumental to the recovery, as they were last time the oil price collapsed but time is running out.
“As we demanded in writing to the Chancellor on 25 March, the government must step in immediately to guarantee the future of the offshore oil and gas industry, including buying stakes in or nationalising oil and gas companies who have reaped huge rewards in the good times and are once again trying to get everyone else to pay for this crisis rather than securing a collective solution.
“There is no doubt that if left to their own devices, the oil and gas industry will walk away from the North Sea, condemning our members to the scrap heap and the country to an uncertain economic and environmental future.
“The Government must resist calls from industry extremists and step in now, to preserve the future of offshore oil and gas operations that will keep our people in work and homes and hospitals powered for years to come.”
Notes to Editors
1. RMT demands, submitted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25 March:
• 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.
• 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.
• Confirm key worker status for offshore oil and gas staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the long term.
• 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.
• Direct regulatory intervention to prevent any further, dangerous increases in commercial pressure on offshore helicopter transport operations.
2. RMT divers working on the Rever Polaris diving support vessel unfurled a poster thanking NHS staff for working to keep us safe from Coronavirus. The divers unfurled the banner at a depth of 110m and some 275 miles off Aberdeen.