‘Concrete solution’ offered in gas plant dispute

Gas plant workers in dispute over shared accommodation and travel allowances have been offered a “concrete solution” in the hope a strike can be averted.

But if accepted the deal could involve bringing another accommodation barge to the isles to help meet workers’ demands for rooms to themselves.

Union leaders were last night locked in talks with management over the row sparked by workers’ demands for travel allowances and an end to shared accommodation. Further discussions are due to take place in Aberdeen tomorrow.

GMB and Unite representatives say staff should receive £50 a day compensation for the inconvenience of shared rooms.

Members working on the £800 million development at Sullom Voe recently came out in support of industrial action. The workers are employed by Petrofac, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Bilfinger Industrial Services and Randridge.

Petrofac insist workers were hired on the understanding they would have to share accommodation. However, The Shetland Times has learned additional, non-shared accommodation could become a reality. Should the offer be accepted it will require extra barge spaces to be found.

Petrofac is also willing to offer workers an extra pound per hour to those travelling from Lerwick or who are in shared accommodation.

Talks over the possible deal are expected to continue tomorrow.

A Petrofac spokesman said it would be unfair to comment on any deal being offered while negotiations are still ongoing.

The company said: “Notwithstanding what we’ve said all along about the room-sharing [that we tell the guys three times before they start work that they will have to share a room and they all sign a disclaimer agreeing to do so] – we are taking this matter extremely seriously.

“We’ve always been willing to discuss a solution that is in everyone’s best interests whilst still ensuring effective delivery of the project

“With that in mind, Petrofac senior management met with the unions last night and tabled some concrete potential solutions. Whilst agreement was not reached last night, meetings will continue tomorrow in Aberdeen and we are hopeful of reaching a swift resolution and avoiding industrial action.”

No response has yet been received from either Unite or GMB representatives.


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • January 15th, 2014 23:57

    I have worked in the oil industry for over 25 years and have in all that time rarely had a room to myself, and never had extra pay for having to share. I consider myself lucky to have such a well paid job with the opportunity for travel built in. I have seen the accommodation barges here and they are far superior to some of the toilets that I have been presented with on arrival at work. I never once threatened strike action but have turned around and come home again leaving the job and accommodation to some one other that wants or needs it more than me. May I suggest to the members of unite if they are really that picky, that they do the same. For there are plenty men and women out there that would be grateful for such a cushy number.

    • Johan Adamson

      • January 16th, 2014 9:57

      Im not sure it is right though that you were ever presented with a toilet instead of minimum standard accommodation. Dont you think the situation should be improved for future workers? Although I am not saying there is a problem with the accommodation in Shetland.

    • Robert Duncan

      • January 16th, 2014 22:45

      To be fair, Mr Inkster, the current generation don’t really have the luxury of just walking out of jobs they don’t like – it can be rather difficult to find a new one in the current climate. With that in mind, trying to find better conditions at the job you’re in makes a bit more sense than just jumping ship.

      • Ali Inkster

        • January 17th, 2014 1:31

        To be fair Mr Duncan if that is the case why are this lot complaining when they should be thankful for a job. Nothing wrong with the conditions, they were told before signing on the dotted line that they would have to share so withdrawing their labour for that reason means they can be sacked without further recourse. But the union will blame the employer and of course those ‘vile evil Tories’ political points will be scored at the cost of the men’s jobs.

  • Harry Dent

    • January 16th, 2014 12:59

    I disagree Ali.

    The existence of bad conditions in the past is not a good reason to accept them now.

    Follow that logic and workers in remote locations would still be living in unheated shacks, with night shift workers replacing day shift workers in their shared beds.

    Progress in all sorts of terms and condiditions has only been made because workers were prepared to stand up and fight for them. The alternative is to lie down and let the employers trample all over you whilst they rake in the billions of pounds in profit.

    This is the twenty-first century, and I don’t think a single room is such an outrageous demand.

  • David Toney

    • January 16th, 2014 15:14

    Harry ,

    What about at the festive period when most of the workers were home , then all workers were offered temporary single rooms but very few took up the offer ?

    I dont believe you should be getting £50 a day that adds up to £1050 for your three weeks , plus an extra £1 an hour just because you have to travel on a free bus , its ridiculous !

  • Ali Inkster

    • January 16th, 2014 16:57

    Harry the conditions on the barges are a far cry from bad. This is nothing other as unite stirring the shit after their epic failure at Grangemouth. They have seen an opportunity to hold a company to ransom over its contract completion date, and this has led them to think they will gain something so they can claim to be effective at looking out for their members interests. Now if conditions at the work site or on the barges were bad then I would be saying good on you lads stick it to them, but the simple fact is that conditions are such that many would give their right arm for a job like that.
    Now here is a simple fact that you, unite and the workers at the gas plant have to accept and that is they can be replaced in a matter of hours, and petrofac have the whole of the EU to get a replacement work force. If they have any sense they will already have sourced the personel.

  • Paul Kapoeira

    • January 16th, 2014 18:56

    Well, this lot has been brewing for a long time. I do not like to share a room, even on a single night project but sometimes it is the only choice. The whole situation up there has been a mess with insufficient accommodation from day-one and ignorance about the forward essential requirements. The budget and expediture has run away with itself but is still within the original affordability.
    In all fairness, the accomodation centre and other housing facilities are first class apart from the odd equipment or service failures and everyone in the ring was advised verbally and in writing via numerous methods that sharing would be part of the job. I suppose they are lucky to not be in a multiple-occupancy room with eight double-decker bunk beds and four or five persons suffering extremely unpleasant flatulence…!! I would love to earn the oney they are taking home and have all that time off for other activities as well.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • January 16th, 2014 19:41

    Funny how the Unions so discredit themselves. Just think, without “the Winter of Discontent” “Margaret Thatcher” would never been elected. Without Arthur Scargill we would still have a mining industry. Union bashing, the Unions do that so well to themselves!!! Must be on a self-destructive spree again!

  • David Spence

    • January 16th, 2014 23:35

    Petrofac, should say to the companies taking part in this construction at Sullom Voe ‘ If you want your workers to have single room accommodation (no doubt with en-suit facilities, small fridge (for the workers beer and not food), flat screen tv, dvd player and hi-fi unit……….not that they are demanding much lol) then you contribute to this cost ‘

    I just think that the workers are pushing the boat out too far and demanding too much for nothing. The poor (exceedingly over-paid) wee workers, having to work away from their homes boo hoo boo hoo…….if you don’t like it, get another job. (I suspect Ali will be shocked at what I have written lol)

  • William McCover

    • January 17th, 2014 7:30

    Ive worked for ESS doing the accommodation up at site and for Sodexo working on the barges, the accommodation is more than content. people know what they are getting long before they come here. demanding an extra £50 a day is absurd in a culture where some struggle to meet that in a days wage! people working for ESS are given such crap benefits for working with the project when it would fall apart without them yet no whisper of strike or pay paise for them. Greed is a terrible thing, you are fed and your room is tidied for you every day. really…your going to complain…on the wage your already on? people commute hundreds of miles a day paying for there fares so getting a bus that drives you straight to work and back for free everyday aswell is not really all that bad. I can understand the travel being a pain but lets be frank if your not mad for it then let someone come up who doesn’t mind. its not hard. stop being little whiney fruitloops would be the jist I guess haha

  • Sheila Tulloch

    • January 17th, 2014 13:34

    I would take the point that it could be health & safety issue, if folk are not getting enough sleep for whatever reason, but getting an extra £50 per day is not going to buy you any more sleep!! But maybe if they get the other barge up….? Also, if these people were working south, how far would they have to commute to work every day? An hour I’m sure not that unusual.

  • jon smith

    • January 22nd, 2014 6:04

    Im a worker on SGP. All we are after is equality with the supervision who get a £50 a day allowance for sharing rooms. They are all employed through umbrella companies paying the minimum amount of tax that is required when the normal worker is getting hit with 40% taxation

  • Ali Inkster

    • January 22nd, 2014 10:29

    If you are paying 40% tax for what is basically a part time job John then maybe you are being paid enough already.

  • Stuart Crichton

    • February 15th, 2014 22:40

    Postscript: All the trades and management on hourly rates receive time and a half on Saturday till 3pm then go onto double time and are on double time all day Sunday and are paid on their weeks rotation.
    They are also booked on the early flights home and the late flights back, which means no costly overnight accommodation in Aberdeen for them and no leaving home at 4 oclock in the morning or even earlier in some cases to catch a. 8am check in at Aberdeen.
    So some workers might be taking home a decent wage but the ordinary working man has to put up or shut up.
    Sorry for the longwinded rant but that feels better getting that off my chest

  • Christopher stubbs

    • February 24th, 2014 20:51

    I am just about to begin working for petrofac and have been informed that I will be staying in a shared accommodation and although I would definitely prefer a single room I have been asked a long time before agreeing to take the job if I would be willing to share accommodation and I have a choice to say whether I want or dont want to do this on my own accord. I for one have agreed to do this so therefore I believe I dont have the right to change my mind halfway through my working time although I wouldnt object to these changes happening

  • David Spence

    • February 25th, 2014 0:43

    I would suggest, just like if you were working on the mainland and had to commute, as some people have said upto a hour (2hours per day) to their work, the companies employing those people complaining about having to share their accommodation (just like most people do with a partner or family) and getting their travelling to and from work for free (person at the railway station complaining to the railway company they have to pay the rail fare to get to and from work…….please take sympathy and let me travel for nothing lol) and getting compensated for having to share accommodation and travel……booo hooo…any way, getting back to what I was going to say……..like most other people working, they have to pay for accommodation whether it be council or private……….I would suggest if workers want single accommodation, free meals, tv, dvd player, Internet etc etc then the contractor should, like what most other people have to put up with, charge their employee’s for the accommodation………………..Its an absolute joke what these workers are demanding in proportion to what they are getting paid and what they already have compared to most other people.

  • George David

    • May 29th, 2014 12:29

    Reckon I am little too late to join this dialogue but I am curious to know about the current situation at the barges now. Thanks in advance!


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