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More than 100 Kaefer contractors based at the Mossmorran and St Fergus gas plants are being balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.
Representatives from Unite the union said on Monday that a deal proposed by services group Kaefer would amount to a “real terms pay cut” for members, leaving them “no choice but to strike”.
Workers have rejected a pay offer of between 5-7% depending on job grade, with the union alleging there had also been “repeated breaches of the collective agreement” by Kaefer in relation to consultation and dispute resolution.
Breaches reportedly included the introduction of fixed-term contracts without consultation at the plants, and a failure by company management to attend scheduled consultation meetings, the union said.
Shell (LON:SHEL) operates both the St Fergus plant – which treats gas brought ashore from the North Sea – and the natural gas liquids (NGL) plant at Mossmorran in Fife, which separates liquids into other usable commodities such as propane, butane and ethane.
Bremen-headquartered Keafer provides a range of asset integrity services around the world. It employs around 3,000 staff in the UK and Ireland following its takeover of Wood Group’s industrial services business in early 2020.
Contractors at St Fergus and Mossmorran include scaffold inspectors and supervisors, riggers and rigging supervisors, forklift drivers, general assistants and mechanical supervisors.
Unite said the absence of these members would mean production at the plants would be “severely impacted” and could not be operated safely.
A Shell spokesperson said: “We are aware of Unite the Union’s intention to ballot its members employed by Kaefer at two of our onshore gas plants. We are disappointed by this course of action, and we continue to support constructive dialogue between Unite and Kaefer to reach a mutually agreed outcome.”
A Kaefer spokeswoman also confirmed the company was aware of ballot.
“We have made an offer to Unite which was recommended for acceptance by the union, this has currently been rejected by their members, however, we continue to support constructive dialogue between Unite and Kaefer to reach a mutually acceptable resolution,” they added.
“The safety of our teams remains paramount and will not be affected by any potential industrial action.”
Unite industrial officer Bob MacGregor said: “Unite’s members are essential to the condition, safety and maintenance of the Mossmorran and St Fergus plants. Without these workers the plants just couldn’t operate safely.
“We call on Kaefer and Shell to reengage with Unite before this dispute dramatically escalates.”
The ballot will open on 11 October and close on 25 October.
Unite reps also took aim at the record takings posted by Shell and other oil and gas companies, which it described as “unfettered profiteering”.
The first half of the year saw the London-headquartered supermajor post record pre-tax profits of $36.9 billion, though the group now expects a dip in performance when it releases its Q3 results on October 27.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, said: “Kaefer is leaving Unite’s members working at the Mossmorran and St Fergus plants with no choice but to ballot for a strike. They are asking workers to take a significant real-terms pay cut while the operator Shell, who ultimately will fund any deal, is swimming in record, multi-billion profits.
“These workers help make Shell’s vast profits – they deserve their fair slice of the pie. These members have their union’s full support in this fight to improve their jobs, pay and conditions.”