Ballot supports industrial action at gas plant

Union members working on the new gas plant project at Sullom Voe have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.

Ninety-four per cent of workers affiliated to the Unite union who took part in a ballot have backed calls to down tools following accommodation concerns and transport arrangements.

A similar percentage of GMB members who voted are also believed to be in favour of stoppage.

The workers are all involved in the construction of the £800 million development being built by Petrofac for French oil giant Total.

It is not known at this stage exactly what form the industrial action will take.

Union leaders are due to hold discussions with stewards to plan for action, possibly in the next couple of weeks.

Talks between unions and management are expected to take place before the walk-out in the hope of finding a resolution to the dispute.

The ballot was held last month amid a row about shared accommodation on barges and in an accommodation block.

John Taylor of the Unite union told The Shetland Times:

“We’ll look at dates for industrial action but we also expect the employer to contact us to continue discussions.”

Members believe they should be entitled to an allowance which, they say, was given to managers when they stayed in shared accommodation.

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.

More to follow.


Add Your Comment
  • Edward Tribe

    • January 6th, 2014 18:58

    Just what is wrong with these guys, they are fed and watered, are on silly money wages, transported in comfortable coaches, work 18 shifts then go on paid leave, what’s the problem? In my day we had to do four weeks on and one off, living in a camp miles from anywhere, at least they can socialise in Lerwick/Scalloway, come on guys man up and be grateful you have such a brilliant job or move over and let someone who really wants the job have a chance.

    • Dean Bishop

      • January 7th, 2014 10:56

      You sir need to be educated, you clearly have no idea just what this ballot is about!, it is irresponsible and narrow minded opinions like this that will hinder the Men, women and the unions supporting them this ballot is not just looking to benifit the tradesman it is there to ensure every person working on that project be it , trades, support staff, cleaners security to name but a few, get what they deserve and it is on a fair and level playing field!, please take more care before spouting nonsense like this in the future, thank you!

      • james johnson

        • January 7th, 2014 13:11

        what is it about then and which of edwards comments are actually untrue?

  • james johnson

    • January 7th, 2014 8:12

    wish i got free transport to work

  • Harry Dent

    • January 7th, 2014 12:15

    Good luck & solidarity to the Sullom Voe workers in their dispute.

    I’m delighted to see that they haven’t allowed themselves to be bullied by management in the wake of the Grangemouth fiasco.

  • Shane clement

    • January 7th, 2014 13:31

    Well said dean bishop wrote what I was thinking .
    And as for James what the people are asking for is either closer accommodation or to be reimbursed for travelling , these people have got too travell enough to get to the Shetlands every month the last thing they need is spending 14 hours a week unpaid getting from their digs to their place of work .

    • james johnson

      • January 7th, 2014 21:41

      travel enough to get to the shetlands? have they been conscripted into this job surely they must have chosen to come here

  • Ali Inkster

    • January 7th, 2014 15:07

    Good grief what a load of utter nonsense. These poor hard done by workers are hardly being exploited, they are getting an extremely good day rate for work that is hardly rocket science. And now the unite union sees an opportunity to hold petrofac to ransom by calling for strike action and threatening the completion date. Yet again unions playing politics and we all have to pay through increased costs. I hope petrofac has the cahones to get the charter planes filled with replacement workers that are not stupid enough to dance to the union tune.

    • Trevor Marron

      • January 8th, 2014 2:50

      Ali you clearly have little or no idea about how a union works. Let me point you in the right direction.

      A union is a group of members with a common goal. Yes, members. The members are the union. Those members legally elect lay representatives who do the members bidding. That includes holding consensus ballots for industrial action. If that ballot is successful then an independently scrutinised postal ballot is held, this is a legal requirement. Unite the Union use the Electoral Reform Society so people can be assured everything is all above board. If the majority of the postal ballot is for industrial action then the members are consulted and an industrial action strategy is agreed. A strike is a form of industrial action but industrial action need not be a strike.

      So, no one has called a strike, nor have the members voted for a strike, they have voted for industrial action. Unite the Union (not unite union, or the Unite union) representatives, Regional Industrial Organisers, or anyone higher up the Unite the Union structure have called for strike action, they have simply empowered the members on the ground, those who are effected by the issues those members wish to resolve, to take action against an employer who has refused to take their complaints seriously. No one is ‘Dancing to the union tune’ the reality is quite the opposite, the members call the tune, and the lay representatives and full time officers support them in what they wish to do.

  • David Toney

    • January 7th, 2014 16:20

    I think you have to be realistic , who else gets paid travel to thier work ?

    if it was a case where you were using your own transport then maybe a mileage contibution would be acceptable or if you were being called out a second time after your shift ends and you were responsible for getting there yourself.

    But the facts are the transport is free , very good rates of pay and free food , consider yourself lucky to be getting these excellent benefits cause there are many people in the UK and around the world a lot worse of than you are , just watch the news every day !

  • David Toney

    • January 7th, 2014 17:33

    Ill also add that, quote ” if Members believe they should be entitled to an allowance which, they say, was given to managers when they stayed in shared accommodation ”

    If it was given to the managers then you should be entitled to the same unless it was stated in your original employment contract or agreement that you would be required to room share.

    I would say though that i would quite happily share a room if i was recieving the sort of pay and conditions you are getting.

    However it probably can be difficult if you dont get on with the person you share with, but im sure this could be changed if you complained to the accomidation staff.

  • Brian Smith

    • January 7th, 2014 18:38

    The general argument here is that employers can do what they like, but employees can’t even have a ballot. It is illogical.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • January 7th, 2014 19:50

    No wonder employers look towards the East. Bulgaria and Romania, what an invitation for an influx of overseas workers! Talk about lemmings anyone.

  • Stewart Hume

    • January 7th, 2014 23:14

    Ha ha! Got to love the union bashers. Looking forward to the Sullum Voe Leverage Campaign starting so that we can get Scabby Rat on the road again. Proud to be militant, proud to be rank & file! Solidarity to those workers.

  • Dave Hill

    • January 8th, 2014 9:06

    So people need to man up, these people leave there every day life behind there families go with out a father children grow up and see there parents 25% of the year on a 3weeks on 1 week off rota then the have to but up with management saying they should share a room/ pirson cell with a stranger this is 2013 not 1901 these companies just think people or modern day slaves who work for the shareholders to maximize profits they should but the 2hours travel into the 12hour day or give these people 14 hours a day surely this would be a health and safety issue any how they wouldn’t get away with it in Norwegian sector good luck guys/girls

    • Allen Fraser

      • January 8th, 2014 10:18

      Sounds remarkably similar to what the Shetland Islands Councillors are forcing Skerries 11 year old school children to do – and they have no choice.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • January 8th, 2014 9:41

    I have known and treat many of these workers. They sadly lose a day’s pay if the have to take a day off for toothache and treatment. I was sympathetic to their hardship, that sympathy waned somewhat when they (the contract workers) told me a 12 hour shift earned them £900. Free, unpaid transport, what a hardship. Tough life. Wish I had those wages when I was in the armed forces!! Wish our Armed forces had those working conditions.

  • David Toney

    • January 8th, 2014 13:18

    The more i think about this the less sympathy i have for these workers , life is all about choices you choose to come here and work to pick up huge pay packets , if you really felt it was affecting your family so bad you would work closer to home, so you should consider yourself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to make such good money in these times many dont have that choice !

    Also spare a thought for the numerous young locals who have been priced out of the private rental accommidation market to due the inflated prices being paid by oil workers and companies , maybe the real issue is that and these companies should be contributing finance to aid housing projects for the young locals, as well as the roads that have been destroyed up north.

    Your living a charmed life so get on with it !

  • Sandy McDonald

    • January 8th, 2014 13:46

    Are all the workers actually on 3 weeks on 1 week off?

  • Stewart Hume

    • January 9th, 2014 17:52


    Several hundred Unite & GMB construction workers, working on Total’s new Shetland Gas Plant, have taken part in a legal ballot, with the dispute concerning the sharing of rooms with not having equality with the supervision/management regarding this issue, plus also having to travel 60 miles a day in our own time and not being compensated for it.

    The ballot result (06/01/14) showed that GMB members voted 98% in favour of strike action and the Unite members voted 96.7% also in favour of strike action, so therefore if the aforementioned aspirations of the Union members are not met, construction of the new build Shetland Gas Plant will come to a halt with industrial action taking place.

    The Union construction workers on the project involved in this dispute are working for Total’s main contractor Petrofac and their sub-contractors Bilfinger Industrial Services (BIS), Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) and Randridge. The Union workers involved, are employed on the Shetland Gas Plant project as welders, platers, pipefitters, riggers, steel erectors, mechanical fitters, scaffolders, electricians, labourers, tele- handler/drivers.”


    • Ali Inkster

      • January 10th, 2014 11:09

      Get the charter planes fuelled and ready.


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