Updated: North Sea strikes could be on horizon as bitter pay row continues

Offshore workers are set to receive ballot papers this week as unions push for official strike action in an ongoing pay dispute with North Sea employers.

A protracted row between Unite and GMB members and North Sea employers, represented by the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA), has been rolling on for months.

The OCA represents nine companies including Amec Foster Wheeler, Petrofac and Wood Group PSN.

Unite and GMB want a wage increase for offshore members, along with improved sick pay and paid travel time.

Union chiefs and representatives of the employers have met numerous times to try and resolve the situation.

This included a meeting arbitrated by independent conciliatory body ACAS – but with no resolution.

In March, 81% of Unite members voted to reject the latest deal put forward by the OCA.

Unite move to ballot members last month, with papers due to arrive with members this week.

Dave Hulse GMB National Officer also said the GMB has now served notice on the OCA informing the body of the intention to ballot members for industrial action.

Hulse added: “We have exhausted all procedures to try and reach an agreement including the involvement of Acas.

“Our members have played their part during the past couple of years, seeing thousands of job losses and also pay freezes.

“It’s time the OCA stopped playing games and came back to the table with a genuine commitment to improve the offer.

“Along with our colleagues from other unions our members message is quite clear; enough is enough.”

However the OCA said it is still willing to implement a 2% increase in basic pay for offshore employees, despite the GMB announcing plans to hold an industrial ballot.

OCA chief executive Paul Atkinson said: “Our offer guarantees that basic pay will be linked to inflation up to 2019 ensuring that wages keep pace with the cost of living.

“We believe that our offer balances the need to reward employees while supporting the requirements of each OCA member company and our collective overarching aim; to ensure job opportunities in the North Sea now and in the long-term.

“We are actively seeking to resolve this dispute and will continue to do all we can to avoid any disruption. Industrial action will only serve to make investment in the North Sea less attractive and jeopardise the long-term future of the industry.”

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