A controversial plan to axe 16 ports and harbours jobs at Sella Ness and use one less tug for handling oil tankers at Sullom Voe will be discussed by councillors behind closed doors next week.
The cost-cutting drive is timed to coincide with the introduction of two powerful new tugs early next year which were built on the understanding they would herald the end of the 30-year policy of always using four tugs to handle tankers safely at the terminal.
The change to the tug rules was agreed in public by Shetland Islands Council in 2006 and confidential figures showed there could be an annual saving of £873,000 and a reduction in tug jobs from 48 to 31. However, it is understood that the latest proposals for cuts will not target tug workers so severely.
Unrest about job losses at Sella Ness was revealed by The Shetland Times two weeks ago although the council moved quickly to allay fears of compulsory redundancies.
Infrastructure executive director Gordon Greenhill dismissed the figure of 16 job losses as “pure speculation” but hoped to shed posts through early retirements and leaving vacant posts empty.
The sensitive business of agreeing where and how to make the cuts will get under way on Wednesday at the end of the SIC harbour board meeting at Sella Ness.
Councillors will go into private to consider a report from Mr Greenhill who has been heading up a team looking at the comprehensive “redesign” of Sella Ness operations, called Ports for the Future. Mr Greenhill was on holiday this week. Board chairman Alastair Cooper said he did not want to discuss the issues in advance of the meeting.
Despite previous trimming exercises the SIC still carries a workforce of 133 at Sella Ness with the tug and pilot launch crews numbering nearly 70 at a time of dwindling tanker traffic.
An earlier report outlining the aims of Ports for the Future concluded: “It is likely that a potential reduction in staffing numbers and operating hours may be considered.”
For full story, see this week’s Shetland Times.