Strike action for Sullom Voe tug workers ‘still a live option’ as row with council employers rumbles on

Union leaders have confirmed Sullom Voe Terminal tug workers will begin industrial action this month over a row with Shetland Islands Council – adding that strikes remain a “live option”.

Unite Scotland had already announced this week that its members had voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

Now, bosses have confirmed that around 40 of the SIC employed towage workers will begin a continuous overtime ban from Monday, 17th May.

The union said strike action could follow if negotiations with the council fail to progress.

It added that strikes would cause “significant impact” to oil processing and supplies. 

The row erupted after the SIC told workers they would not receive a long service award after 25 years in the job. While other council workers are entitled to an an award equivalent to a month’s salary, the towage workers are set to continue with a flat rate of £250.

Unite industrial officer John Boland said: “We are hoping to get a resolution to this dispute but if there is little progress in negotiations with Shetland Islands Council then our members will start industrial action from the middle of May with a continuous overtime ban.

“Strike action remains a live option on the table, which would have a major impact on the Sullom Voe Terminal.

“Unite’s members on the tugs bring the tankers into port, and without them the tankers will not be able to be loaded or unloaded.

“There is limited storage at Sullom Voe so this will have a significant impact on production for the Brent and Ninian fields.

“Therefore, we are hoping that common sense prevails and the Council give our members what they are owed, which is the same as their fellow workers.”

When the ballot was announced in April, SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison said the long service award was for the council’s Scottish Joint Council (SJC) employees and did not form part of the towage service employees contracts of employment.

She said: “Our towage service employees cannot access benefits under an entirely separate contract of employment unless they agree to full harmonisation of the SJC terms and conditions.”

Ms Sandison went on to question the legality of strike action as the SIC had “honoured ther Tupe protected terms and conditions of employment of Unite’s members”.

Shetland Islands Council issued a statement before Unite’s latest announcement, saying: “We are waiting to hear from Unite what form their proposed industrial action will take so we cannot comment on its impacts at this stage.”

Voter ballot turnout was 86.5 per cent of Unite members, with 87.1 per cent of those voting to take strike action. 


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