Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/587/7530
The Socialist 7 July 2009 |
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Oilc - fighting for decent working conditions in the North Sea
The north sea oil union Oilc has recently amalgamated into the RMT. The offshore employers do not want to negotiate with Oilc, which has pioneered the fight for safe working conditions in the North Sea. They have consequently signed 'sweetheart' agreements with the Unite trade union. This affects all offshore workers, from drillers to caterers. The Socialist spoke to an off-shore worker.
"I've worked on oil rigs off and on for 20 years, and was one of the first to join Oilc. At one stage I left Oilc, as I became disillusioned, but five years ago rejoined.
I'd never been an officer in a union, but because it's hard to get anyone to take a position I was elected chair of the branch, and also sit on the executive committee of the Scottish regional council.
We got our hands on a secret recognition agreement - the UK Floating Production recognition agreement. This is an agreement between Amicus (Unite) and the employers.
This document is a sham agreement, totally in favour of the employers. Offshore workers are denied any meaningful negotiation over terms and conditions. The agreement is a rubber stamp for the employers to do whatever they like. If we don't like it - all we can do is go for arbitration or conciliation, without any right of any form of industrial action.
Unite have signed up to this. They signed these agreements in a concerted effort to exclude Oilc from any negotiations for pay, terms and conditions.
One of those who sits on the health and safety board, advising on health and safety issues, has never been an offshore worker - no idea!
Oilc branch officers are offshore workers. Jake Molloy, organiser for the offshore energy branch of the RMT, has worked as an offshore worker, so he fully understands the problems facing those workers.
A lot of our workers were blacklisted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were sacked - never to return to offshore work - no longer required. Employers use this method to keep trade unionists and militants off installations.
We have had partial victories. We spent 15 years fighting for the right of appeal when workers are removed from an installation. If someone is removed - we want to know why. The practice will still go on, they'll look for loopholes. This issue has been a running sore for years, but it will be harder for employers as now they need to justify their action.
Offshore bosses have a strategy of divide and conquer. Some workers are on enhanced pay and conditions, others have to fight for everything.
Our goal is to unite engineering, construction and drilling workers in a fight against the bosses who are implementing pay cuts and tearing up terms and conditions."