21st May 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Gas plant strike is on as offer rejected

34 comments, , by , in News

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.”

John Taylor of Unite

John Taylor of Unite

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.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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  1. Ali Inkster

    This is what I expected, even after Petrofac made a decent offer they still are going to strike. This may just get them what they want this time but from now on the oil industry will looking outside the UK to eastern Europe for labour. Petrofac will be well within their rights to sack every one that refuses to work as per the contract. It is this sort of nonsense that will do more damage to the British working man than even the worst of the mill owners and robber barons of the past.

  2. Brian Smith

    It looks as if they’re paying no attention to you, Ali.

  3. davey morris

    Work for Petrofac do ya? Think youll find they arent within their rights to sack everyone that goes out the gate as it has all been done legally through the correct channels & process! And Decent offer?! Are you serious?! 15 a night is a absolute joke, all they want is to be treated equal. And they deserve it for some of the conditions they stay in! Tiny little prison cells with bunk beds sharing with a complete stranger! You obviously have never worked on SGP or stayed at the accommodation facilities. You obviously have no clue of anything thats gone on so you should probably keep your Tory loving, no clue having opinions to yourself Ali.

    • Steve Lewis

      Haven’t any of these guys ever worked offshore? Standard practice to share rooms, and yes Davey in little prison cells. These guys will be on a far higher wage than most in the uk and on a good rotor. Have to agree with Ali, just look at what Statoil are doing, fabricating everything in South Korea, why because its cheaper. And before you start yes I have been in the industry along time, onshore and offshore!!!

  4. T Goodlad

    I remember the merchant navy,ship building, coal mines ,car industry ect, ect. most of them now gone.

    Cutting of the hand that feeds you.

  5. Ben Simpson

    The offer we received is terrible, £15 per day equates to £9 after tax, me personally I don’t want a total stranger coming into my room to use the toilet for a #*#* at all different hours of the night. We have to share a room with a different stranger every time we come back from our leave and u have no privacy or time to yourself. Have your read the contract Ali? The workers who do strike can’t be sacked as this is an official strike done legally through two unions. #no justice no peace

  6. carl davies

    Typical big company trying to shaft the workers who travel hundreds of miles to support their families all to keep the shareholders happy while making extortionate profits. If you think the amount you have offered is fair why don’t you try and pay yourself the same ? As for the earlier comment knocking the workers refusal,you obviously work in a cosy office and really do not have a clue !! Come the referendum (if it ever happens) there will be know foreign workers to compete with as I personally believe the British public have just about had enough of europe. Stick to your guns lads and ladies.

    • Ali Inkster

      Ben Simpson and Carl Davis just so you know I work in the oil industry sometimes offshore sometimes in remote onshore locations throughout the world, I have never had an office job in my life. I have been on jobs where there was 2 hours travel each way on top of the 13 hour shift daily, so I think I am more than qualified to pass comment. I have spent a great deal of time working in Norway where there is a strong union but a union that does not try to play politics unlike the unions in Britain.
      My first point is this, In this instance the workers all signed a contract which stated that there would be travel and/or shared cabins, Why is this suddenly unacceptable? Could it be that they have seen an opportunity to blackmail their employer over the completion date.
      Secondly, in my travels around this world I work with very few Norwegians outside of Norway, outside of north America the expat workforce was mostly British but this is changing. The Norwegians are still unemployable due to the wages they expect and the British are fast joining them in that category, more and more Russians are now working internationally and in the North sea and a fair few rigs in the British sector are in the process of replacing the British crews for Eastern Europeans. Now when I go to work the chatter in the t shack has a lot less Scots and English accents And you guys seem to think that making more ridiculous demands is going to improve this situation. Get a grip on reality guys you are putting yourselves and your compatriots out of work. So if there is a sudden arrival of planes at Scatsta and Sumburgh filled with replacement workers I for one will not shed a single tear for any of you.

  7. David Toney

    First question. Why was it when a percentage of the work force was down manned during the festive period the majority of the remaining workers turned down the chance to have temporary single rooms.

    Secondly. Why is it you feel that you require to be compensated for travelling time ? Its a free bus for gods sake , free food , free digs !!!!! Just what planet are you guys on !

    Is it not the case that there is an agenda to prolong the project for extra income and this accomodation and travel dispute is the perfect excuse to do that plus the benefit of squeezing more cash out of it !

    • guy watson

      Because your working 12 hours a day for 9 and a half pay and also Offshore guy’s are on a lot more money …

      • David Toney

        So you consider that sitting on a bus is working , do you also feel that you should be paid for your breaks ? Listen most people pay thier own way to work , they dont get paid for that and also when they get there they buy or take thier own food , generally the break time is deducted !

        1 You are not working offshore !

        2 If you so crave that money and benefits off being offshore why dont you go offshore ?

        3 You should consider yourselves very fortunate to have jobs paying such good money many over the world have nothing , so get on with it !

  8. Zak Black

    In a nutshell, if sharing accommodation is such a problem then no monetary value can compensate for that. It’s morally repugnant to think that a particular value of compensation can change how you feel on what is claimed to be such a serious issue.
    Money if you are sharing yet you still want to be compensated for travel when you are given your own space?
    This project has been ongoing for over two years and during that time people have been in shared accommodation. Why the escalation into industrial action now?

  9. intinkler

    “Come the referendum (if it ever happens) there will be no foreign workers to compete with” (carl davies). That is perhaps the most inane comment to date on the battle of greed between the Unions and the Management. No Europe, no foreign workers ,no French investment n the UK, no Total gas plant, no work and no workers to whine. The price of peace!!!?

  10. Stewart Mac

    Great to see the unions picking yet another fight they cannot/will not win. Does masses for their credibility. Its not that long ago I could hardly find myself able to agree with some of management practices but in recent years the Unions have shot themselves in the foot over and over again.

    Wanting the same rates as the supervisors/management? well might I suggest they do the same job then.
    By that (in my view fatally flawed) logic all workers would be entitled to the same benefits as those in seniority – does that then mean they should all be paid the same wage as say the Chief Executive? – Only one place in the wold where that (even) might work, and its not anywhere in Europe that’s for sure.

    If the workers were employed on the basis of shared accommodation then I fail to see how they can even begin to mount a rational argument. If on the other hand they were promised individual accommodation (in their contract) and the Company has failed to supply it then that’s a different story.

    As far as “travelling time” is concerned, each and every one of us with “normal” jobs has to make our own travel arrangements to our place of employment. Most don’t get any compensation and have to meet their own travelling costs – theres no free bus for the rest of the world. If they were on the mainland and landed a job in Edinburgh while living in Glasgow would they expect their new employer to meet their costs and pay them for the privilidge of their travelling? I think not – Get a grip!

    So I say Crack on – Withdraw labour, even with today’s declining unemployment I am pretty sure there will be a fairly large queue of people willing to take their “intolerable” working conditions.

  11. Stewart Hume

    Solidarity with the workers! Proud to be rank & file!

  12. ray mccourt

    This is the only way to get the best deal possible. Removing your labour is a democratic decision and legal. I worked away from home for years in the 80s got paid for travelling. Got £40 a night dig money .here we are 34yrs later and employers want to drive conditions down. Shame on them….Solidarity brothers and sisters

  13. intinkler

    “Proud to be rank & file!”. “Solidarity brothers and sisters”. The cries of self extinction are heard yet again. Make no mistake this is just a battle for monies between two avaricious groups. Total and its hired contractors. Both a wealthy beyond most people’s aspirations and are both driven by self interest, nothing more.

  14. Stewart Hume

    Aye, I am proud to be rank & file, because I’ve tasted victory over employers plenty of times, can you guess why? Through solidarity!

  15. Ian Tinkler

    Solidarity! Now that was a Union that withstood true oppression. Not the fat boys politicking over the wealthy lemmings as they hurtle towards the edge of the cliff.

  16. Brian Smith

    I’m always surprised when Shetlanders feel entitled to mouth off about negotiations between workers and employers. Imagine the reaction if those workers wrote to the Shetland Times about the complainers’ own pay and terms and condition! All I can conclude is that the letter-writers are so habituated to reading the Daily Mail that they consider – wrongly – that that style of argument and that kind of employer-adoration is normal in society.

    • Ali Inkster

      Reading the socialist worker and the red star have had no effect on your views Brian.

      • Brian Smith

        The Red Star Weekly was a D.C. Thomson publication, Ali. More up your street than mine.

    • David Toney

      No one is listening to you Brian and your showing complete ignorance in making asumptions as to what papers we read and what we consider normal society , grow up and come with a reasonable case for the discussion because in that generalised statement you made a complete fool of yourself !

  17. Mark Smith

    Some of the glib tory loving comments on here beggar belief! Why should the man on the tools only get £15 a night while management /supervisors get £50, disgraceful! Proof that the class system is alive and well! No wonder this country is going to the dogs! Every day the working man and the less well off in our society takes a good kicking by this government while those in management and on the board of directors get their greedy snouts further and further into the money trough with bigger and bigger salaries and bonuses!

  18. Ali Inkster

    P.S. When the REAL oilMEN arrive there will be none of this nonsense, they will get on with their jobs and tell all their mates on Facebook what a cushy number it is up here.

  19. David Toney

    And what of the Union bosses , a previous unite boss had a pay off close to half a million pounds , the gmb boss gets a £127,000 a year whilst 40 union leaders recieved six figure salaries whilst one boss made a whopping £230,000 !

    So its in thier interest to stir things up and get more people to join and pay the £150 ish a year to supplement these bosses lavish lifestyles !

  20. Stewart Mac

    Brain Smith:- Surprised when we “mouth off”? These negotiations were brought into the public domain by whom exactly? I think you may find it was brought up by the union trying to get (presumably) “public support” – Why else “go public” with it?

    In my view this has spectacularly backfired.

    As for your comments that we must all be “so habituated to reading the daily mail…. ” that we are incapable of independent thought? – I can “only assume” that some contributors are so caught up in union rhetoric and idealism that they still think is Summer 1978 and that unions still have the power and influence in society they once enjoyed.

    Just for the record I was a card carrying union member (I wont mention their name(s)) for in excess of 20 years. Membership, and the card that goes with it, has long been consigned to “File 13” as a result of the inane ramblings of certain union officials who did not (and never really did) represent anyone other than their selves – but that’s just one opinion, i’m sure many others are happy with their union and the style/content of their representation.

    I wont even bother replying to Mark Smith’s comments…..

  21. Gordon Harmer

    A bad case of Ad hominem from Brian, folk have a view and every right to express it.

  22. intinkler

    How about a bit of solidarity from brother Arthur Scargil. The union leader whom kept Thatcher in power whilst destroying the mining industry. Now trying to buy a NUM council rented property as his own private pad. Good one Comrade. Still got your £20,000 NUM Jag? Ref : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/former-num-leader-arthur-scargill-tried-to-buy-london-flat-under-margaret-thatchers-righttobuy-scheme-9061392.html

    • Robbie Leask

      Ian I think you will find that the miners strike was engineered by the National Coal Board and Thatcher who between them planned 70 pit closures with the loss of 70 000 jobs, violating previously agreed procedures for negotiating pit closures with the NUM as laid out in Plan for Coal1974 and 1981.

  23. David Spence

    It seems that the society we live in (a trait of capitalism) is very much a me, me (selfish in some cases(another trait of capitalism)) self, self is more important than the collective. The nature of the beast (Capitalism) brings out nothing more than the (the worst in human nature) destruction, break up of society, break up of families (mainly due to the self, self mentality) complete disrespect, a more aggressive, confrontational society (another trait of capitalism due to competitive principles brought on by commercial practices as well as the selfish trait) exploitation of society (zero hour contracts, employing foreign workers instead of local, greater power to employers, less power to the employee) and the gap between the rich and poor widening even greater than ever before……………but apart from all of that…….I hope this situation between the employee’s (workers at the expansion of the Sullom Voe Terminal) and the employer can be resolved to everybody’s agreement and satisfaction…………..que Ali lol

  24. iantinkler

    “Ian I think you will find that the miners’ strike was engineered by the National Coal Board and Thatcher”, Well if that was the case, Robbie, it just shows how stupid the Unions were to fall into Thatcher’s trap. Paradoxically Thatcher was only elected as a result of Union suicidal stupidity in the “Winter of Discontent” which so discredited Labour Socialism. The electorate had had enough of Union militancy and socialist dogma. Grangemouth shows the old militancy and suicidal tendency lives on, Cameron must be laughing himself more stupid than usual. I wonder what trap he will be engineering now, for the Socialist fools to fall into.

    • Brian Smith

      I blame the greedy dentists.

  25. Stewart Mac

    I think i can safely say we all get it, truly we do – (vile) Capitalism is the root of all evil. And where its not, its the fault of the (equally vile) Tory Party – So please move on!

    If we remove the usual capitalist and/or Tory rants we are used to from your last post we are left with only the last line of any relevance – and that at least is a good sentiment, why not stick to that?


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