Strike action looms on 40 offshore installations

Unite the union has confirmed that over 700 Bilfinger, UK Limited offshore members will be balloted on strike action due to a dispute over pay. The strike action could hit 40 installations in April.

Unite the union has confirmed that over 700 offshore members at Bilfinger UK Limited, will be balloted on strike action due to a dispute over pay.

The ballot will last four weeks, opening on 17 February and closing on 17 March. Any strike action and overtime ban will be from early April 2023 following a successful ballot result.

Unite is demanding an increase above the base rate of pay set in the Energy Services Agreement (ESA) for 2022 and for this to be backdated to last July. The ESA agreed last year to a 4 per cent uplift, which was meant to be paid in January 2023 but has yet to be paid to date.

Bilfinger has refused to increase pay beyond the ESA base rate at a time when the broader cost of living stands at 13.4 per cent (RPI). Bilfinger has yet to implement any pay award and allowance uplifts that were also agreed in November 2022.

Several oil and gas operators will be hit if the strike goes ahead, including BP, CNRI, Ithaca, Harbour, Repsol, and Taqa. Unite predicts that any strike action on the offshore installations will impact production and planned work, with nearly 40 installations being hit by hundreds of tradespersons not completing planned work.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said, “The UK’s oil and gas operators and contractors are being served with record numbers of industrial action ballots. There is one simple reason why this is happening – corporate greed. Companies like Bilfinger have refused to pay attention to the concerns of our members by offering a decent and fair pay rise. Unite will continue to fully support all our members fighting back for good jobs, pay and conditions across the offshore sector.”

Shauna Wright, Unite industrial officer, added, “Unite has served notice on Bilfinger because our members feel that their voices and concerns have not been heard. We will now ballot more than 700 workers across nearly 40 offshore installations where Bilfinger UK Limited has a presence. This development comes after months of failed attempts by Unite to get Bilfinger to increase pay beyond the ESA base rate. Our members are angry and they have had enough. It’s time Bilfinger paid their workforce what they deserve before a wave of industrial unrest hits the UK Continental Shelf.”

Bilfinger Response

A Bilfinger UK spokesperson who spoke to Scaffmag said: “Bilfinger UK joined the Energy Services Agreement (ESA) in May last year, and are aligned with ESA base rate pay. Efforts to date to address pay concerns have been via the ESA. We’re disappointed that Unite has raised a dispute with Bilfinger directly on base rate pay as this potentially risks undermining the ESA. We will continue to work with Unite to find a resolution that will best support our employees and their families.

“The January rate increase and allowance uplifts agreed in November will be implemented in the coming weeks and backdated for employees. We appreciate our employees’ patience over the time it has taken to complete the necessary processes for its implementation.”

This latest offshore dispute at Bilfinger is part of a wave of industrial unrest hitting the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) with Unite involved in a series of conflicts involving operators and contractors.

Unite has also criticised the UK Government’s inaction on taxing oil firms, as BP posted the biggest profits in its history, doubling to £23 billion in 2022. Shell also reported earnings of £32 billion, bringing the combined total profits of Britain’s top two energy companies to a record £55 billion.