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TALKS between Shell and union leaders have broken down over huge job cuts at two of its plants which have raised ‘critical’ safety concerns.
Details seen by the Herald confirm proposals affecting the energy giant’s Northern Systems and Plants (NSP) operations in Fife and Aberdeenshire would result in 109 out of 129 key maintenance staff operated by energy contractor Kaefer being axed.
Unite say it will cut the overall number of staff, including management and supervision by nearly a third at the Mossmorran and St Fergus plants.
The consultation period of 30 days is scheduled to end on Saturday 24th October and union leaders say staff’s concerns have not yet been answered.
Unite rep Bob MacGregor confirmed that there was a meeting with Shell management on Wednesday which raised safety concerns as a result of teh cuts “and got the stock answer that Shell believe that there is no safety being compromised”.
He added: “The current situation is that the vast majority of these redundancies are still likely to take place and our members concerns over the health and safety of the plant and their colleagues that will remain have not been addressed.
READ MORE: Shell deny huge job cuts at two Scots plants then U-turns as union raises ‘critical’ safety concerns
“If the current plans do not change then there will still be over 100 redundancies over the sites.
“The company have only consulted on the roles that are being reduced and those roles, for example, pipe fitters and scaffolders are our members believe safety critical because the plant is mostly elevated pipework containing dangerous gas and chemicals.”
Shell originally denied the job cuts, before doing a U-turn.
It had said the reduction “in our core maintenance team” across both sites would be just 12%.
The union raised concerns about the cuts with trades impacted by the proposals include scaffold inspectors and supervisors, riggers and rigging supervisors, forklift drivers, general assistants and mechanical supervisors.
The trade union is warning that fire and safety responses to any major incidents at the Mossmorran and St Fergus plants could be severely impacted by the cuts.
The concerns came a matter of days after protesters frustrated at the impact the Mossmorran plant is having on people’s lives staged a socially distanced demonstration and called for it to be shut down.
The protest on Saturday, mirrored by a similar demo outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh – was called following the latest unscheduled period of flaring at the start of the month, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) receiving hundreds of complaints about noise, vibration and light pollution caused by the process. It has been followed by further protests.
A further demonstration is expected this Saturday and the Mossmorran Action Group is calling for ministers to commission an independent expert study of the environmental, social and health impacts on the surrounding communities of the operations of Shell’s NGL Plan and ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran.
The group is also seeking discussions with the Scottish and UK Governments, the companies and trade unions regarding the long term future of the plant and a possible strategy for its decommissioning.
The Mossmorran Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) plant is part of the northern North Sea Brent oil and gas field system and is located on the outskirts of Cowdenbeath.
The Mossmorran facilities comprise two plants: the Fife NGL Plant operated by Shell and the Fife Ethylene Plant operated by ExxonMobil.
Unite said it had been in active consultation with the contractor Kaefer for weeks to stave off the compulsory redundancies, which it said was being enforced by the oil giant.
But Unite said Shell “remain intent” on pressing ahead with the proposals despite Unite representatives at both plants raising major health and safety concerns over the current and future condition of the Fife and Aberdeenshire plants due to the “dramatic reduction” in staffing levels.
Shell has said the jobs that were going were because they had reached the completion point of some recent projects at the gas plants, for which contractors were brought in to support.
“The projects were scheduled to finish at this time, meaning those contractors would have no longer been working at Mossmorran and St Fergus anyway,” it said.
“In addition, we have re-phased the maintenance schedule for the coming years which will enable our plants to continue running at high safety and integrity. The bulk of that work will be managed by Shell’s core maintenance team. They will be supported by contractor workers – such as painters and scaffolders – who’ll be brought in to work on maintenance campaigns as required.
“Many of these contractors are currently engaged at the plants full time, when there is not always enough work for them to do. For example, during winter when we don’t schedule much routine exterior maintenance because of the likely poor weather.”
Shell had no further comment to make.