Gas plant strike is on as offer rejected
Union leaders say gas plant workers have “overwhelmingly” rejected an offer aimed at bringing an end to the rumbling dispute over the Sullom Voe project.
GMB and Unite members had been holding a mass meeting to find ways that could bring an end to the row over shared accommodation and travel allowances.
However, the offer put forward of £15 a day for travel allowances or shared accommodation has failed to curry favour with workers.
Workers say they want to receive the same £50 a day which, they maintain, supervisors received for sharing accommodation.
GMB’s regional organiser, Brian Negus, said members had “unanimously” rejected the offer.
He said members would stage a 24 hour strike beginning from this Friday. If subsequent talks fail to thrash out a deal union members will stage further walkouts for the next two Fridays thereafter.
“We recommended a deal to our members and our members told us quite clearly the deal wasn’t enough,” said Mr Negus.
“We’re open to talks with the management, any time, any place. Petrofac have said if we take any form of industrial action they’ll take the offer off the table, and that will be the end of it. We’ve told our members that and they are fully aware of that.”
The unrest has raised concerns among some privately that the construction of the gas plant may not be completed in time. The first gas had intended to be pumped through in a matter of months, but Mr Negus said there was “no doubt” the completion of the project would be held up.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt it was going to be delayed. It’s in Shetland, isn’t it? You’ve got bad weather and everything. I think it’s a difficult project to finish on time. I think they were talking about handling the first gas in June.”
Meanwhile, Unite’s John Taylor said workers were preparing for three 24 hour strikes. He believed around 95 per cent of members who voted in the ballot favoured downing tools.
“The workforce have rejected the company’s offer.
They don’t think it was enough. It was overwhelmingly rejected and they’ve voted to take 24 hour strike action this Friday, 24 hours next Friday and 24 hours the Friday after that.
“The members have decided they believe there’s more money there and as a union we’ll listen to what our members say.”
No response has been received so far from Petrofac.
Meanwhile, the cruise ship Ocean Endeavour will provide extra accommodation for around 250 gas plant workers when she takes her position at Lerwick Harbour shortly.
However, the decision to take over the vessel is said to not be in response to the dispute. Instead, she is being brought to deal with growing numbers on site.
A spokesman for Petrofac said the company was”surprised and disappointed” and was now considering its options.
“We explain to the workers at three points before they begin work on the project that they will be required to share rooms, and they all sign a disclaimer agreeing to do so.
“Having said that, we take their welfare very seriously and had made a very generous offer that was accepted by the full-time union officials and the shop stewards.
“We are now considering our options.”