Gas plant workers sent home following this week’s debacle over a strike ballot will be first in the queue to receive their jobs back once demand for their labour picks up.
Petrofac insists a decision to put 47 pipe-fitters employed by Balfour Beatty on stand-by is because of a fluctuation in demand for workers at the £800 million Sullom Voe development, which is being built by Petrofac for French oil giant Total.
Union leaders had insisted this week’s dismissals came immediately after management were notified of possible industrial action.
A ballot will be held on Wednesday following concerns about shared accommodation on barges and in an accommodation block.
The dispute also focuses on calls for travel allowances to be paid, after workers’ concerns about bus journeys taking up to one hour each way to and from work.
However Petrofac says the workers are on stand-by and will be brought back to the plant in the near future.
A statement released by the firm yesterday said they would be given “priority consideration for re-engagement”.
“The size of our workforce on any project routinely fluctuates to meet needs. This is common practice across our industry. We can confirm that a small number of employees from one of our sub-contractors have today been given notice that their services are not currently required. However we have stated our commitment to priority consideration for re-engagement when an opening arises aligned with their skill-sets.”
John Taylor, of the Unite Union, said the incident had been badly dealt with. But he said the matter had been resolved.
“The guys are going off the island on stand-by and, when the work picks up, they’ve got an agreement from Petrofac that these guys will be given first priority of any jobs back in the island.”
However the GMB’s national officer for engineering construction, Phil Whitehurst, said he was not satisfied with the explanation.
“With the ballot – that’s over the accommodation and travel – it’s a totally different issue. But whenever there’s a downturn in manning, it’s planned. Consultation takes place between the trade unions and there is a procedure they have to go through.
“The very day the GMB issued a notification that there was going to be an industrial ballot, 47 of their workforce got lumped. That’s not a coincidence. That doesn’t just happen in 24 hours.”