Workers at a major gas plant in Shetland are voting on strike action after becoming embroiled in a dispute over pay, a trade union official said today.
John Boland, regional officer for Unite, said 70 workers employed by Aker Solutions were being asked to take part in the ballot, which closes on September 29.
Mr Boland said Aker had declined to offer workers a salary increase and had failed to make holiday payments in some cases.
He said the union was considering a “legal claim” over the alleged holiday non-payments.
He also warned that the plant would not be able to continue production if the 70 Aker employees who are based there went on strike.
A spokesman for Aker confirmed that the company had been notified about the ballot.
The spokesman also said the company was committed to working with union officials and workers to resolve the issue.
The plant, which officially opened in May 2016 and is operated by French oil major Total, processes gas from the huge Laggan and Tormore fields west of Shetland.
In February, Unite asked Aker for a wage increase for its members on the basis that the plant was performing well, Mr Boland said.
But he said Aker still had did not come back with an offer by last month, prompting the union to start balloting members.
He claimed Aker then offered to negotiate on the condition that Unite dropped the ballot, but the union was unwilling to do so.
Furthermore, Mr Boland said that in some instances Aker was not giving workers the holiday pay they are owed.
He said there were also examples of Aker rolling the holiday payments into the basic hourly rate.
Mr Boland said: “You are not allowed to do that. We raised it as a grievance. Aker upheld the grievance and agreed it was not clear how it was being applied.
“We’ve taken advice from solicitors and are looking at legal claims.”
Mr Boland said Aker was “playing a dangerous game” and that workers were “angry”.
He said: “Aker’s position is that they’re going to wait until they see the outcome of the ballot.
“We’ve got 70 members there. Without them, the plant will not be able to produce. It’s not a situation Total will want.”
Aker’s spokesman said: “We were formally notified on August 22, 2017 that Unite the Union intended to ballot their Aker Solutions members at the Shetland Gas Plant to engage in strike action or industrial action short of strike with regard to disputes relating to pay and holiday pay.
“The ballot closes on September 29, 2017 and Aker Solutions remains firmly committed to working closely with union representatives and its workforce to bring this to resolution.”
Total has been contacted for comment.
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