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Strike begins at Total North Sea platforms as union threatens escalation

London — UK trade union Unite threatened to escalate a series of strikes by contract workers at Total's North Sea platforms that began Monday if workers' objections to new offshore work rotas are not addressed.

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As the strike by employees of service companies Aker Solutions and Petrofac began, Total said production was continuing as normal.

Total said in a statement it had carried out a full risk assessment and ascertained production could safely continue despite the first in a series of 24-hour strikes. As subcontractors, the personnel are considered less critical to the operation of the facilities than Total's own staff.

However, Unite said it was prepared to intensify industrial action to achieve its goals. Accusing Aker and Petrofac of refusing to negotiate, Unite regional industrial officer John Boland said: "Unite will escalate our industrial action over the coming weeks, causing widespread disruption until both Aker and Petrofac see sense."

The dispute by contract workers follows strikes last year by Total's own staff over the change to so-called 3:3 work rotas, extending the time personnel spend offshore to three weeks. That dispute was eventually resolved, partly through improvements in pay.

Total has argued the rota change brings improvements in both efficiency and health and safety, partly by reducing helicopter flights to remote offshore installations. The Aker and Petrofac workers were issued with new contracts in line with the new rota requirements last week, Unite said.

Unite has scheduled multiple strikes both at the Elgin-Franklin, Alwyn and Dunbar offshore facilities and at the 14 million cu m/d Shetland Gas Plant, which processes gas and condensate from fields in the West of Shetland area such as Laggan-Tormore.

Last year's strikes reduced gas output by as much as 13 million cu m/d and oil output by around 70,000 b/d.

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SCHEDULE OF UNITE INDUSTRIAL ACTION

24-hour strikes at Elgin-Franklin, North Alwyn, Dunbar

  • March 11
  • March 19
  • March 27
  • April 2
  • April 12

24-hour strikes at Shetland Gas Plant

  • March 13
  • March 27
  • April 10
  • April 24
  • May 8

-- Nick Coleman, nick.coleman@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles, newsdesk@spglobal.com