Whatever you think of the unions in general, and the offshore unions in particular, oil & gas workers will want to watch this clip.
Remember! You’ll have to scroll along the timeline at the bottom of the video till you get to 04:52:18 to get Jake Molloy.
Jake, a past General Secretary of the OILC and now a union organiser for RMT, speaks out. He argues for a “green and just recovery” in the face of this latest, and maybe last, North Sea oil industry meltdown.
He speaks about the 9,000 workers who have been forced down the road in the past year – they’ve gone with not much more than a whimper – and a further 21,000 predicted to be about to follow them in the coming year. He goes on to outline how he sees a “just transition” protecting oil & gas industry workers.
He told the STUC Annual Congress,
“you know all about this because we’ve been talking about it for years”.
The transition from oil & gas to renewables is under way. People in power have been talking about it for years. That much is clear. Whether it’s going to be fair (just) to oil workers, their families and their communities is still to be decided.
The workforce – whether in a union or not – will only be part of this conversation when they demand to be part of it. The only certainty is that workers, families and communities will be shafted if the oil & gas industry is left to call all the shots. They’ll only look after their shareholders.
Before all else the workforce needs to begin to talk about the future of the North Sea and about what they need out of this transition. The conversation on here is wide open to that discussion.
The last energy transition abandoned the coal miners. If the transition to renewables is not going to abandon oil & gas workers serious discussion is needed. And oil & gas workers and their families are going to have to hold centre stage in that conversation.
You don’t need to know all the answers. No-one does! If you have questions – ask them. We’ll try and find people who might help you find an answer. If you have hopes or even fears let us know what they are.
Have your say!
Bullying seems to be alive and well in the corridors of shame – I mean power.
Does shouting and swearing at the workers by offshore management still go on? I kinda guessed that this sort of bullying had long gone. But then again I spent the last 20 years of my offshore life in Norway where it was a definite No! No!
Over there the only people who in my experience, even tried that kind of stunt were Barge Engineers (OIMs) and toolpushers who came over from the UK with drilling units. They didn’t last. They were replaced after having had the opportunity to change their “management style”. Mind you they didn’t have the sort of friends that Priti Patel has in Westminster.
Norway’s offshore unions are way stronger than UK’s. But to be fair they haven’t ever had to contend with a succession of ghouls like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair and the rest. And to be honest the unions didn’t usually have to intervene in bullying. The culture was different over there. The unions had negotiating rights for good agreements and they periodically strike to defend and improve them. Two weeks onboard and four weeks off. You can work offshore Norway and live a good life – a family life if that is your thing – and as long as families are going to continue being a “thing” as the planet heats up.
In the early days of the industry in the UK (I’m talking the early 70s) the bullying, at least in drilling, didn’t stop at just shouting and swearing. Physical violence wasn’t exactly an everyday experience but it was an ever present threat.
I wonder if Jim Matthews, no doubt long retired as a Conoco Company Man, remembers when he was barge engineer on Sedneth 701 backing up a Deep South redneck “Company Man” while he pinned a 20 year old roughneck in a corner in the pit room? And I wonder if he remembers Eddie Homan the welder explaining patiently to the Co Man, in his office, in front of Matthews and others, just why he should never try a stunt like that again. Heady days! Of course Eddie was fitted up and sent down the road not too long after, I believe. I was gone by then.
Of course the main form of bullying offshore on the drilling units was “running off” and though this didn’t entail physical manhandling (in most cases at least) it left guys on the beach without a job, families without prospects, and a feeling of helplessness that felt worse than a punch in the face. Amongst construction engineering workers it was (still is?) the NRB (not required back) where your employer (Salamis maybe, or Wood Group back in the day) would be told by the operator not to send you back out to the platform.
Your “face didn’t fit”. That mostly was a code for “not prepared to just put up with bullying bullshit”.
Sign up and get into the conversation. Let us know what’s going on out there You still might have to put up with shit. But you don’t have to do it in silence. That’s important.
I’m proud to have been asked to post a video on this website for a friend. It exposes BP boss Robert Dudley’s, “total disregard for the world we live in”. It’s straightforward and damning and it comes from one of us. And by that I mean an energy worker.
It’s not a complicated story. Our industry is choking the planet with plastic shite. Dudley’s been asked to do something about it. He’s done fuck all so far.
It’s maybe a stretch to call him an oil & gas worker, but at oilandgasworkers.org , we’re relaxed about the definition, so maybe he’ll sign up to the conversation and tell us where he stands and why he hasn’t even bothered to reply so far.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a conversation about our industry and its responsibilities to the planet. Bob Dudley might have no intention of joining it as yet – and maybe never on here. But it’s not going to be “business as usual” in the oil & gas industry whatever anyone would like to believe.
Energy workers have a major stake in the uncertain future of this industry. The questions oil & gas workers ask, and the conversations they have, can have a big impact on the way the industry responds, and the future for our families – and our planet.
Sign up and check out – Robert Dudley (BP) – total disregard for the world we live in in the conversation.
“A couple of hundred onshore oil workers, along with their families, are about to suffer a sore blow. The UK’s richest man, Jim Ratcliff has been forced to take time off from trying to get his hands on more taxpayers money, to throw them out of work.
Oil refining at Grangemouth, it seems, needs rationalisation. So he’s going to rationalise 187 of the 687 workers onto the dole. As far as he’s concerned it’s fuck the furlough! Sir James doesn’t need the time to plan any alternative green jobs and to retrain the workforce. A new green deal? Not his concern. It’s just business as usual – stagger on in the old ways in the face of a rapidly changing world where science is screaming about global warming and climate chaos and the need for a transition away from oil & gas.
But this is not an isolated incident in the oil & gas industry. In recent months about 9,000 workers from offshore and the supply chain have already been forced down the road in this latest oil market chaos. The industry is a basket case. Who knows if the 30,000 job losses predicted (threatened?) over the next couple of years by Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) include these 187 onshore oil workers or not. Probably not!
The North Sea is pretty much invisible to the media. It seems they can only see what the oil industry PR departments tell them they can see. Reminds me of the jumbo jet that David Copperfield used to make disappear. It’s a trick! But it may not be quite so easy when it comes to Grangemouth and Ratcliff. His PR is not quite so good. Maybe this is what will ignite a discussion about how we address the issue of fossil fuels.
It’s not like any of any of these job losses are unexpected or unavoidable. We know the transition to renewable energy is inevitable and necessary. But we also know that if it’s left in the hands of the Ratcliff and the oil companies the transition will be botched, with little thought for either the workers or the planet.
For the transition to be done in a rational way – for it to be “fair” – it require us all to be involved in the discussions and the decisions. Ratcliff and company are concerned above all about their bottom line. We’re expected to sit by and watch as jobs go and Ratcliff gets on with looking after his own interests.
The oil and gas industry plan is to hang on in there and, in cahoots with the Government, to produce every single drop of oil and gas they can. They call it “maximising economic recovery” (MER). The plan is to let the chaotic oil markets determine how and when the industry will run down and workers livelihoods and lives trashed. And in the meantime we’re supposed to hope these same oil companies come up with an alternative to their own fossil fuel, just in case the planet is still inhabitable once these bastards are finished with it.
“Net zero by 2050” (or 2045 – the Scottish variant) is what our Governments are promising. But it’s just smoke and mirrors. The plan is actually to produce as much oil & gas from the North Seas as will turn a profit, and for as long as possible. Along with this we’re going to get the greenhouse gasses associated with burning fossil fuel. Imagine this masterplan replicated worldwide. Petroineos is a small cog in that wheel.
There’s obviously going to be no rational plan to extricate us from a nightmare that threatens the lives of our grandchildren and their grandchildren never mind the livelihoods of energy workers unless we all have a say in what needs to happen. The responsibility for beginning the conversation that might possibly lead to some rational plan lies with those workers, their families and their communities, who will first bear the brunt. If not them then who?
No dumping workers and their families. Those who want to must be allowed and encouraged to get into green jobs to replace the fossil fuel industry that’s killing us. If they need retraining then that’s what has to happen. We need clean energy to replace fossil fuels. It’s not rocket science – it’s climate science. And if we don’t have a renewables industry that can take up our skilled workers and provide us with a future, it needs to be built.
Start the conversation!
The last group of workers in the UK who fell foul of an energy transition were the coal miners. And when I say “fell foul of”, I mean got utterly fucked by.
The miners’ strike was a while back. 1984-85. Unless you were part of a miner’s family or lived in a pit village I’m guessing that you won’t really remember it unless you’re at least 45 years old. Doesn’t mean you won’t have read about it or watched film footage.
This is – and is not – like 1985. Back then the miners’ communities didn’t know they were in an “energy transition”. They thought they were just being fucked by Thatcher because they wanted a decent wage and stood up to her and her bullies, and that she wanted to destroy them and their union – all the unions. With hindsight that’s what the Thatcher Government did pretty much do. Certainly the miners union is no more and the offshore unions never functioned worth a fuck, with one notable, but short lived exception. And you’d have to be at least over 52 today and have been on the North Sea when Piper Alpha went up to have any experience of that time.
Maybe back in the mid 1980s some people did know about global warming and the fact it was caused by burning fossil fuels. I certainly didn’t. Mind you I hadn’t even begun to give global warming much thought 30 years later when I retired from offshore Norway in 2015. But everyone at least “knows” about global warming these days.
But whatever the reasons, and whatever we think about global warming, we do know one thing – coal’s gone and the transition from oil & gas to renewables is well under way and there’s no way back thanks to global concern about global warming. But the transition can still be botched, and if it’s left in the hands of our industry the chances are pretty high that it will be.
In all the years I worked offshore – my whole working life – I met one ex-miner offshore. Why would that be? I can think of a few possibilities. The employers wanted trade union militants offshore like they wanted a hole in the head. Specially most of the “Yanks “who came over and who dominated the drilling industry. They came predominantly from the Deep South and most thought that black skinned people and trade unionists were sub-human. OK! Maybe the majority of miners weren’t carrying skills that were immediately transferrable to the North Sea, but then again neither were the butchers and bakers, painters and teachers that came into drilling. Maybe it was a bit different on the hook-ups where they needed the guys with engineering skills. Still not many openings there for most miners I guess.
The point I’m trying to make, rightly or wrongly, is that the transition is happening and it’s not going to stop. On top of that the industry is dysfunctional and periodically fucks off workers when the oil markets slump. And as long as the decisions about the future of the energy transition and the North Sea oil industry is the exclusive property of the Government and the oil industry, there is absolutely no guarantee that the majority of oil & gas workers will not go the way of the coal miners – onto the scrapheap.
Who knows how this situation will pan out? I don’t! And I’m not saying that all we have to do is start talking to each other and that’ll be the solution to a looming jobs crisis where 30,000 workers are predicted to go in the next year and a half.
But if we don’t begin to speak and begin to work out what we want out of this transition, we’ll get shafted just as the miners were before us.
Join the conversation. You don’t have to know the answers.
That’s how we’ll all know them from now on.
Umbled – but pleased with themselves – according to CEO Ben van Beurden, as reported by ferocious oil & gas watchdog, Energy Voice.
Though when I thought of a two word description based on my dealings with Shell from a working lifetime offshore, what sprang to my mind was “fucking shameless”.
What’s ‘humbled’ Shell it seems is Covid-19. Or, more accurately I suspect, their handling and reporting of it.
What is really going on with Covid-19 offshore? If you know anything, join the conversation on here and make sure the workforce knows what’s going on.
The companies don’t want any news coming off the North Sea. Certainly none that hasn’t been sanitised by their PR hacks. Then their task is to get their disinformation uncritically reprinted as “news” by their colleagues in the media. And what if there’s an uncontrolled leak of news? Ach! Tell them that the safety of the workers is their first priority and that everything’s OK – the installation is completely safe.
It can’t be as easy for the companies as it was in days gone by, when they could just shut down the phones when they wanted silence. Mind you, maybe it’s not so different today. 16 crew members were locked down for a fortnight after a Covid-19 outbreak on the EnQuest Producer docked in Nigg. The word is that after initially getting onto the Press & Journal the crew went ominously silent. Anybody know the facts?
It can’t be any easier in today’s job market to speak out if you know you can be identified and possibly NRB’d. It’s why you need to adopt a username when registering with oilandgasworkers.org and join the conversation.
Shell is deeply into news management. That’s them just getting round to telling us via Energy Voice on the 26th, about an outbreak on Brent Charlie on October 7.
It seems that four crew members with Covid symptoms were flown off the Brent Charlie. It’s not clear from the Energy Voice report whether they went off on the same chopper as another 9 workers flown off as a “precaution”. Anyway four turned out to have the virus and other crew who went off the Charlie on a regular crew change chopper had been in touch with those who had the virus.
No wonder Shell was trying to keep that one quiet.
Shell didn’t breathe a word about the 22 workers they demobilised after a Covid outbreak on the Gannet till we got wind of it and blogged about it here. Next day they fessed up to 15 crew having had to be evacuated from the Nelson. Shell couldn’t confirm that the man who tested positive hadn’t gone off on the crew change chopper that day. They didn’t deny it either. Probably think it’s none of our fucking business.
It is of course not only Shell installations that have been hit by the virus. BP evacuated 5 workers from the Andrew platform. Taqa have evacuated at least 27 workers from the Braes and advised another 54 workers to self-isolate at home. I wonder if they’re getting paid to do that?
This second spike of the virus has just begun. Sign up to the conversation here on oilandgasworkers.org and let us know what you know and what you think. link? We’ll try and plot the progress of the virus.
At least all you guys going onto Shell installations should be safe from now on, as we can see here. Word has it that you’re going to get a Covid test kit through the post, and if you test negative and self isolate and make it up to Aberdeen and out on a chopper, you should be OK. As long as everyone else did the same.Who knows what the solution is. But we need to be talking about it. Join the conversation. Stay safe!Click here to see the original article at peopleandnature
Most UK oil workers would consider switching to another industry – and, if given the option to retrain, more than half would choose to work on renewable energy, a survey published today shows.
The survey blasts a hole in the argument by trade union leaders that every last drop of oil must be produced, supposedly to preserve jobs. Actually, workers are ready to move away from fossil fuel production – as long as they can work and their families don’t suffer.
The 1383 offshore workers who responded to the survey crave job security, above all. Nearly half of them had been laid off or furloughed since oil prices crashed in March.
Many complained about precarious employment and the contract labour now rife on the North Sea.
The survey, Offshore: oil and gas workers’ views on industry conditions and the energy transition, was put together by Platform London, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace.
The survey’s authors seem to be the first people who have actually asked workers what they think.
The Scottish government has a comfortably-funded Just Transition Commission, including trade union chiefs, that recently ran a consultation on its interim report.
But it was campaign groups, working with activists on the ground, who bothered to talk to offshore workers.
The survey, distributed via social media and targeted advertising, garnered 1546 responses. The results excluded replies by 163 people who work in midstream or downstream industries, and are focused on the 1383 respondents who work upstream. That’s a representative sample: about 4.5% of the workforce.
One of the survey’s most sobering results is that, when asked if they had heard of a “just transition”, a staggering 91% of survey respondents said no. (The term “just transition”, nowadays used and misused by politicians, was coined by trade union militants in the 1990s to define the need to fight for social justice during the switch away from fossil fuel burning and other ecologically ruinous practices.)
The Offshore report’s authors comment:
Clearly, campaigners and NGOs lobbying for just transition, and policymakers tasked with implementing one, have failed to reach oil and gas communities – the people who ought to be most central to transition plans.
Despite not sharing vocabulary with the chattering classes, North Sea workers are very clear that the future lies away from oil and gas.
Asked, “would you consider moving to a job outside of the oil and gas industry?”, 81.7% said yes, 7% said no and 10% said they did not know. The survey’s authors commented:
The fact that a huge majority of workers are interested in leaving the industry speaks volumes about the stability and future of oil and gas. There are of course a multitude of reasons why anyone would consider changing jobs, but it is clearly that the offshore workforce is willing to make large lifestyle changes given the opportunity.
In case studies and written responses, the vast majority of offshore workers state that they are fed up with the lack of security, decreasing employment rights and hostile conditions.
Of the 7% who would not consider moving, the three main reasons given were that they were close to retirement age; that the offshore work schedule allowed them to spend time with their families; and concern that their skills would not be transferable.
Asked what was most important to them in considering a move, respondents replied: (1) job security (contract length, pension, etc), 58%; (2) pay, 21%; (3) similar work schedule, 11%; (4) health and safety regulations, 5%.
The survey’s authors reported “a palpable exhaustion with the precarious nature of work offshore”.
North Sea workers are also ready to participate in the transition to renewable energy production, judging by the survey.
Asked, “if you could receive training or education to help you move to a new part of the energy sector, what education or skills training would you be interested in?”, and allowed to choose as many of ten options as they liked, the responses were:
Offshore wind 53%
Rig decommissioning 38%
Carbon capture and storage 26%
Non-energy sector 20%
Solar installation 19%
Geothermal technologies 18%
Battery technologies 16%
Electrical engineering 13%
A barrier to the transition to renewable energy is the lack of adequately-funded training schemes, the survey showed. Respondents complained that they are expected to pay for courses and qualifications themselves – and the bills are counted in thousands of pounds.
Survey respondents criticised the lack of government support for workers:
The overwhelming majority [of respondents] asked for some form of training, support to leave the industry or investment in renewables. Other prevalent themes included a need to invest in decommissioning, financial support and local supply chains.
The report ends by saying that Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace will be running a participatory consultation of oil and gas workers across the UK. “Workshops will enable energy workers to draft policy demands for a transition that works for them, and a renewables industry they want to work in.”
The report urges “energy workers, union branches, local communities, environmental groups or other stakeholders” to get involved.
Today’s report shows that North Sea workers are well aware that the false choice that trade union leaders talk about – fossil-fuel production or unemployment – has nothing to do with reality.
On the contrary, a move out of the oil industry could be, from workers’ point of view, a chance to say goodbye to precarious contracts and the constant fear of sudden lay-offs.
Offshore workers’ readiness to retrain to work on renewable energy, as shown in the survey, strikes a refreshing contrast with trade union officials’ approach. They back the oil companies’ and governments’ plans to keep pumping oil until there is no more money to be made from it.
The oil companies present this climate-wrecking policy in “green” wrapping paper, Vision 2035 – which cynically claims to aim at “net zero” emissions, while continuing to pump a million barrels a day.
But the underlying strategy of “maximising economic recovery”, i.e. wringing out every last drop, is unchanged.
This approach is not only incompatible with combating dangerous global warming, but also avoids focusing on the really urgent job of closing down oil and gas production and planning other futures for workers and communities (as NGOs have argued in the Sea Change report, for example).
In April, when the oil price slump triggered a new wave of lay-offs, the union bosses reiterated their sympathy for “a longer term investment strategy” in oil, rather than accelerating the switch to non-fossil technologies. The Unite, GMB, RMT, Nautilus International, BALPA and Prospect unions all fell in line, rather than treating the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to leave behind the fossil-fuel-centred economy.
Surely what is needed now is a real discussion in communities and among workers about how to shape the just transition, to achieve social justice and to contribute to tackling climate change. Hopefully, the participatory consultation proposed in today’s report will be part of this. GL, 29 September 2020.
Comments by North Sea workers (from the report)
On precarious work …
■ As I was self employed prior to April, the company put me on a PAYE contract even though the government delayed its implementation of the IR35 rule [rules that apply to off-payroll work contracts]. Consequently I now earn less, have to pay for all my courses out of my wages, and I have no employee safeguards or protection. It seems the oil companies have got away with everything but the workforce gets hammered. […] A union won’t stop this, it needs government intervention to hold these companies to account in the way they are treating the entire workforce.
■ I’ve gone to agencies who employ contractors as staff, and have had to go back as an independent contractor and take a 25% pay cut. This is happening on a wide scale. It’s very attractive to companies because they have to take on the risks of employees. I fear in the long term that IR35s will allow for companies to get rid of workers whenever they want. They have zero risk, they can take 150 guys and then get rid of 150 guys six months later.
On retraining …
■ At my last job […] our safety guy had worked in oil for 15-20 years. He applied for a job on [a wind farm] and it was going to be offshore. He was told he’d have to do the offshore survival course for wind. If he wanted the job he would have to spend at least £1000 for offshore wind qualifications. But the main theory behind offshore survival is surviving a helicopter crash, and it’s the same helicopter if you are going offshore to a wind turbine or an oil rig. Even a half day conversion course would be better, because as it stands it’s perceived as a money-making scam.
■ We need retraining and a job at the end of it. I can’t get any work. I was an agency worker so I get no money or help whilst not working. I have to use the money I have previously earned to live. I can’t claim one single penny from the government, it’s soul destroying. I am 52 years old and I feel my life is finished already.
■ Offer courses either free or heavily subsidised, unlike the last downturn in oil and gas where it was an absolute nightmare to get funding for retraining. They made it so difficult and unrealistic that the local governments basically pilfered the funds for themselves. They should offer better rates than what is given from the completely useless and proven to be absolutely abysmal Universal Credit. No-one can survive on that.
On the energy transition …
■ Up until now we’ve been quite reliant on oil and gas for transport, heating and generation of electricity, and obviously that’s going to have to change. […] If we want to look at training people towards understanding how we maintain our planet, it’s really important that people understand that there are ideas out there that are fantastic. But of course, not all of them are that sustainable, including biomass. I’m interested in a degree in tidal generation, mostly because we live near Montrose and there’s a three square mile basin that fills with seawater every day. […] It empties and fills twice a day, and I can’t help but think ‘surely we could be taking advantage of that’.
■ Offshore: oil and gas workers’ views on industry conditions and the energy transition
■ Scot.E3 (Employment, Energy, Environment) – a grass-roots campaign for just transition
■ The North Sea: the reaction to Piper Alpha – about union organisation in the 1980s
■ Oil, coal and resistance: a wee history of Scotland’s fossil fuel industry
Not much! As little as possible I suspect.
The story is that Shell’s Gannet installation pretty much got down manned to skeleton levels last week (the week ending 11 October) because of Covid19.
Seemingly nine guys were evacuated on Wednesday evening and another 9 the following morning. Four caterers were all due to be down manned the next day and replaced by a new catering crew to service however many is now the new normal POB.
Shell don’t deny any of this. Mind you they didn’t inform anyone about it either. In fact when we spoke to them, all they came out with was that old chestnut about safety being their first priority.
A Shell Spokesperson said;
“Our priority is the welfare of our people and the safe operations of all our businesses. The Gannet platform is operating safely, and we are monitoring the situation closely.”
It looks like it all kicked off over a week ago – Sunday the 4th – when the first evacuee from the Gannet, who would then go on to test positive for COVID19, showed symptoms of the disease.
Taxis home for the guys paid for by Shell – even those going back to the North East of England. Although it seems one man was quarantined in an Aberdeen area hotel. We wonder what that’s all about.
Would they not all have been quarantined in hotels, on full wages, till they’d been tested and could be proven to be no longer infectious, instead of being papped off home to their families and communities with whatever, if anything, they had contracted?
And if this level of down manning is correct it does beg the question of whether they’re just keeping production going as usual on Gannet and if so, can this really be done safely with so few guys left on board?
If we know a little more about this story than Shell wants us to it’s only because an offshore worker joined the conversation.
It looks like when Shell realised that the Gannet story was out, they decided silence maybe wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Because yesterday they told the Press & Journal that they’d down-manned 14 guys from the Nelson on Sunday after a guy who’d tested positive was medivaced on the Friday. Looks like they didn’t bother to tell the P & J about the Gannet though.
We wonder whether they’ve yet bothered to tell the guys that took the scheduled chopper home from Nelson on Friday that they’d been sharing digs with the coronavirus victim. Who knows?
Up to now the story of Covid offshore has been as clear as mud.
Back on August 27, A headline in the industry trade paper “Energy Voice” shouted:
“The North Sea is bringing the risk of Covid “under control” with just 10 cases of people contracting it while at work offshore in the UK”
They went on,
“Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show only a handful of cases being contracted in the oil and gas sector since the beginning of April, none of which have been fatal.”
But then didn’t go on to explain why way back in early July, in an article titled;
“North Sea went a week with zero medivacs for workers with Covid symptoms
Energy Voice had already reported that 133 flights had evacuated 236 workers all bearing symptoms of COVID19, and that one worker who had been evacuated with symptoms had since died. Who knows what the situation really is today.
“Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) said it shows barriers ‘appear to be working’, as the industry makes moves to re-man to normal offshore levels.”
Well, maybe not so much on Gannet! How is the industry getting on re-manning to normal levels? Do they mean ‘new-normal’ manning levels?
Looks like a lot of guys are never going back out. Oil & Gas UK are predicting up to 21,000 redundancies in the Industry in the next year and a half, on top of the 9,000 that have gone already during this latest bout of market chaos.
What is actually going on out there?
A conversation about the future of the North Sea has begun.
Gabrielle Jeliazkov, working for oil watchdog “Platform”, has so far done all the heavy lifting. She surveyed upstream oil & gas workers and asked them about their future. The response from the workforce was magnificent and their voices point a way forward.
The Platform report on that survey sees the offshore trade unions as central players in the way forward. The response of RMT/OILC was immediate.
The union welcomed the report from environmental campaign groups on the role of oil and gas workers in a ‘Just Transition’ to a zero carbon economy. They say that “Offshore Oil & Gas Workers Must Deliver the Just Transition”.
So what is a “Just Transition”? The RMT union’s OILC Branch newsletter ‘Enough is Enough” says it is “much talked about”. But 91% of the workers who took the survey, hadn’t even heard the term. So it’s obviously not talked about enough. A welcome change is now under way.
It’s easiest described by looking at the last energy transition. In the 1980s coal gave way to gas. There was nothing “just” or fair about the way the coal industry was destroyed during the Thatcher era. The workers and their families were abandoned to unemployment and benefits. Their communities were trashed.
Now, as sure as gas followed coal, there is going to be a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But whether it is going to be “just” depends on the actions of those who stand to lose their livelihoods and the viability of their communities.
If it’s left in the hands of the oil & gas industry we all know how they’ll handle it. They’ll do what they always do. They’ll sack workers and screw those who remain. The process is already under way again with 9,000 workers already gone this time, and the employers are predicting another 21,000 sackings over the next two years.
And still there’s no coherent plan to fully replace fossil fuels from the North Sea with wind, wave and solar power. The Government/industry plan for the North Sea is still to “maximise economic recovery” of oil & gas – that is produce every barrel they can turn a profit on, just using fewer people doing more work under deteriorating conditions. And when that’s over? Just suck in oil and gas from elsewhere?
Now there’s a chance for North Sea workers to develop that conversation. What is your future? What about your family’ and all those, both onshore and offshore, who have depended on the North Sea for a living?
Who else, apart from you and your families, really gives a shit?
Well the authors of this latest report obviously. The school strikers who want a future and see renewable energy replacing fossil fuel as the only hope for a habitable planet for their kids – they certainly “give a shit.” And probably every parent and grandparent who have had the luxury of the time to look at what kind of life their children and grandchildren are facing.
That’s a potentially unstoppable alliance.
But the result must be a transition that is fair or “just” to the workforce.