Shell braced for North Sea strike

Royal Dutch Shell is bracing for strike action on seven of its North Sea platforms in the biggest industrial dispute to hit UK oilfields for a decade.

Workers for Wood Group, which provides maintenance services to Shell, voted on Wednesday in favour of strike action to protest against changes to pay and conditions.

The dispute reflects growing tensions in industrial relations in the North Sea as companies struggle to keep the basin competitive in the face of declining production, high costs and low oil prices.

Shell said it did not expect immediate disruption to production and was putting in place contingency measures to ensure essential maintenance could continue if the strike went ahead.

Trade unions accused Shell of recruiting “scab labour” after advertisements appeared on job agency websites offering maintenance work on week-by-week contracts.

Leaders of the Unite and RMT unions said their members had overwhelmingly backed strike action.

Paul Goodfellow, head of Shell’s upstream business in the UK and Ireland, said he was disappointed by the vote and hoped that Wood Group and its employees could resolve their dispute without a walkout.

“Our priority is to ensure that the safety of our people and assets will not be compromised during any industrial action,” he added.

Dave Stewart, head of Wood Group’s eastern region, said the company wanted to reach an agreement with unions that “meets our mutual goal of safeguarding these jobs in the North Sea now and in the future”.

Wood Group employees are facing an average reduction in base salaries of 3 per cent.

Shell braced for North Sea strike

Weak oil prices are expected to lead to the loss of about 120,000 jobs in the UK energy sector this year, according to Oil & Gas UK.

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of the industry group, said: “Industrial action can only add to the industry’s challenges as it focuses on tackling the current downturn to restore North Sea competitiveness and sustain jobs in the industry in the longer term.

“The changes we are making now to improve the efficiency of the sector will be critical to shaping the future of the industry and safeguarding the jobs it currently supports.”

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Shell braced for North Sea strike
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Shell braced for North Sea strike
BDC October 2022 issue - 297

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