Grim warning over reports of renewed optimism in North Sea

Reports of renewed optimism in the North Sea should be treated with “skepticism and caution” according to a union boss.

It comes as a new employment survey claims that job prospects could improve next year as oil prices stabilise above $50.

The new research by recruitment firms shows that almost 90% of employers surveyed expect staffing levels to either increase or remain the same in 2018.

But RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said that the industry is still suffering from redundancies.

More than 440,000 posts are estimated to have been axed worldwide since the crude oil crash that plunged the sector into crisis in 2014.

Mr Molloy said: “We’re not seeing anything that would suggest this level of optimism.

“Nothing at all. In fact, quite the reverse. We are seeing redundancies.

“I don’t get it at all and I would treat it with a degree of skepticism and caution.

“Suggesting this does nothing more than increasing the burden of cost on a lot of workers who think they can go get a survival course and get offshore because things have turned around.

“This paints a picture that is absolutely not the case and I would advise anyone reading it to do so with a degree of skepticism.”

The survey, by NES Global Talent and, claims to show that in total almost 60% of employers expect to recruit significantly over the next 12 months.

Of those almost a quarter (23%) of employers expect to increase their workforce by 5%; almost a fifth, (19%) expect to increase staffing by between 5 and 10%; and more than a sixth (17%) by more than 10%.

Almost a third (30%) of employers expect staffing levels to remain the same and just 11% of employers expect to cut jobs.

In total more than 3,000 employers and almost 7,000 workers were surveyed as part of the Oil and Gas Outlook 2017 report.

Trade body Oil & Gas UK’s upstream policy director Michael Tholen said any signs of confidence should be embraced but warned more would need to be done.

He said: “Sustaining employment in the UK will rely on fresh investment in new activity. The UK Continental Shelf has done much to raise its competitiveness which is reflected in the $6billion of merger and acquisition activity on the UKCS in the first half of 2017 alone.

“Fiscal measures to promote further asset trading have a role and can help ensure late-life assets are in the most appropriate hands to extend the life of the basin.

“In that regard, we look forward to measures to assist asset trading being announced in the Autumn Budget this year.”

SNP Spokesperson for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Drew Hendry MP welcomed the survey results but also called on the UK Government to address the support for the sector in next month’s budget.

He said: “Scotland continues to be exceptionally wealthy in terms of energy, with oil and gas and the ever growing resource of renewable energy adding to our future potential to sustain and create more new high value jobs.

“There is much work to be done to ensure that the full potential is realised and we would, once again, call on the UK Government to stop dithering over support for the industry with action on, amongst others, the tax treatment for late life assets, the long promised but as yet, undelivered “oil ambassador” and to make up for the betrayal of Peterhead by following the Scottish Government on rapid development of carbon capture technologies.”

However Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, said that his party is lobbying the Chancellor for more help in next month’s budget.

He added: “To hear that more jobs will be created than lost worldwide is of course a good sign in itself after a torrid few years of cuts.

“The UK Government has stood shoulder to shoulder with the industry during this very difficult time, offering support through tax breaks and major investment in technology and innovation.

“My Scottish Conservative colleagues and I are lobbying for further steps from the Chancellor next month to ensure that this government’s unprecedented commitment to the sector continues.”

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