Cuts being made across the offshore oil industry as a result of falling oil prices will compromise safety and lose key skills to the UK, Unite has stressed. This is amid mounted fears that the seeds of another disaster on the scale of Piper Alpha could well be being sown during the price downturn. The union has called for urgent action to safeguard the sector at the oil and gas industry summit that took place in Aberdeen on February 1. With oil companies set to reduce spending on investment and exploration by US$170 billion by 2017, Unite has called upon the UK government to step in with much needed support for the sector to help ensure that safety standards are indeed upheld while the industry endures this period of considerable uncertainty.
John Taylor, Unite Regional Officer said, “the rush by firms to cut jobs and reduce costs is placing enormous pressure on the remaining workforce, and is harming the industry’s reputation. Unless something is done soon to stem the flow of job losses, key skills will be lost. Our worst fear is that these cuts could create the potential for another health and safety disaster on the scale of Piper Alpha. We are seeing already that in the shift to working three weeks on followed by three weeks off in an intensely harsh and demanding environment is taking its toll on workers. The climate of cost cutting that is descending is not consistent with maximum public and worker safety.”
Unite is critical of the industry’s failure to set aside money from profits for times such as these but has said that government intervention is justified with Taylor commenting, “the oil industry employs around 450 000 people across the UK with around 130 000 employed in Scotland, and has contributed greatly to the national wealth for generations. But now the sector is facing a crisis following the dramatic fall in oil prices and a downturn in demand, these workers now need action, not blame apportioning. We are losing vital, world class skills so we are urging the national government to do as they have done for previous important sectors and provide financial assistance.”
Edited from press release by Claira Lloyd