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!
“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.