Oil and gas union slams ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to coronavirus crisis amid job cuts fear
The RMT warned around 20 operators are making big spending reductions and laying-off staff before the impact of coronavirus on the sector is fully understood.
The warning comes as industry body Oil and Gas UK said the sector is suffering a “triple whammy” of low oil and gas prices, along with the Covid-19 pandemic.
RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said it is wrong to fire workers when they could be kept on the government’s job retention scheme.
“It’s a knee-jerk reaction and it’s flawed,” he said.
“Absence rates are about to go through the roof if predictions of infection rates are correct.
“Why are companies paying people off when they can be put on the government’s job retention scheme? They should be kept on so we can have resilience when sickness increases. Maybe at the end we’ll now about redundancies, but this is the wrong time.”
Offshore staff levels are about 40 per cent down during the crisis, industry figures show. It means a drop of around 5000 people compared with previous levels.
But with others being sacked, there is less flexibility to operate key installations if workers become ill and have to go into isolation.
Molloy said the current economic and health crisis is the worst he could have imagined.
“We’ve got the lowest has prices in two to three decades, the lowest oil prices in about two decades. And now we’ve got coronavirus too.”
Writing for the Daily Record, Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said there has been a swift response to the crisis.
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Airports are testing travelling staff, numbers of staff on installations have been reduced and social distancing is being brought in.
But she admitted: “Against this backdrop, we have also seen a dramatic fall in global oil and gas prices which is compounding the economic impact of Covid-19. This triple whammy is particularly worrying for our supply chain which remains fragile, given it was only just beginning to emerge from one of the most prolonged downturns in our history.”
Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK
While those of us who can are now working from home, some people in the oil and gas industry are among those key workers who need to do their job either on-site or offshore.
Our people play an essential role in providing the energy we all need to heat our homes, power our hospitals, fuel emergency service vehicles and provide the materials used in many everyday products.
While the UK and Scottish Governments have taken unprecedented measures to protect everyone’s health and safety, OGUK has also coordinated a swift, critical response to support our people.
Joint effort between helicopter operators and industry means we now have aircraft and protocols in place to safely transport workers to and from shore. Many of those travelling offshore may have seen temperature testing at heliports to help safeguard staff.
Installations across the North Sea have reduced numbers to essential personnel on board only, and social distancing measures have been introduced by many companies.
The efforts of our people have been positively overwhelming – whether it’s donating face masks to hospitals or developing hand sanitiser.
Against this backdrop, we have seen a dramatic fall in global oil and gas prices, which is compounding the economic impact of Covid-19.
This triple whammy is particularly worrying for our supply chain, which remains fragile, given it was only just beginning to emerge from one of the most prolonged downturns in our history.
Therefore, while we welcomed the UK Government’s financial support for the economy, we need to ensure that it does address the particular challenges that this industry faces.
So, given the uncertainty with which we are all grappling, one thing is clear: the people working in our industry are key to ensuring that our security of supply is maintained and our lights stay on.