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!