NORTH Sea workers are to vote on industrial action over jobs, pay and shifts after showing strong support for a ballot.
Members of Unite and the GMB have given the go-ahead for an official ballot, which the unions warned could see a North Sea strike for the first time in a generation.
Unions say thousands of jobs have been lost since the slump in oil prices, while firms are proposing changes to shifts, pay and holidays, despite help for the industry in last week’s Budget.
Members of both unions voted in a consultative ballot heavily in favour of having a vote on industrial action.
Pat Rafferty, Scottish secretary of Unite, said: “This massive support for industrial action should come as no surprise to offshore employers.
“Since the turn of the year workers covered by the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA) have been at the coal face of the opportunistic cuts agenda, which has continued unabated across the industry despite the Chancellor’s £1.3 billion tax break.
“The industry agenda is clear in that it wants to impose a reduced number of employees to work longer and for much less; it’s a ‘race to the bottom’ disease that is both unsustainable and unacceptable.
“Unite’s message to OCA employers is simple - our members are not prepared to accept these impositions and they want proper participation over their livelihoods and the future of the offshore industry.”
Dave Hulse of the GMB, said: “The vote quite clearly demonstrates the anger and frustration of our members employed in the offshore industry. Members are prepared to strongly oppose the changes from clients and contractors
“We do not believe proper risk assessments and consultations have been held before unilateral action was taken. We are concerned that moving to new rotas will have an adverse impact on members’ safety and health.
“We will now move to the next step to ballot our members for industrial action.”
Unions say talks over the dispute are “deadlocked”.
Bill Murray, Chief Executive of the Offshore Contractors Association, said: “The decision by trade union officials to go to industrial ballot over changes to shift and holiday patterns is disappointing. The need to make efficiencies and increase productivity in order to prevent further redundancies and prolong the life of the North Sea is well understood by the industry following a period of unsustainable cost inflation.
“Strike action would only serve to make investment in the North Sea less attractive and jeopardise the long-term future of the industry.
“We remain committed to working closely with union representatives and our members to find a solution.”
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