UK: Offshore caterers balloted on strike action

Unite, Scotland’s biggest offshore trade union, on Monday said its offshore catering members would be balloted on strike action.

The union said it would serve formal notice on each of the employers represented by the Caterers Offshore Trade Association (COTA) – Aramark, Compass, Sodexo, Entier and Trinity.

According to the union, offshore catering members of Unite and the RMT had previously voted to reject a pay freeze. However 74 per cent of Unite’s membership demanded to be balloted for industrial action in pursuit of a pay rise. A pay rise which would be the first in two years after COTA reneged on an agreed pay rise due in September 2015, Unite said.

“Workers across the sector have had an agreed pay rise withdrawn and are now being informed by employers that a pay freeze is fair. Our members are being told that the offshore oil and gas industry cannot afford a pay rise despite pay rises being offered to other offshore workers,” Unite added.

Unite regional officer Vic Fraser said: “Within the last two years many of our offshore catering members have seen their offshore shifts increase to ‘three weeks on three weeks off’ resulting in many working two additional 84 hour weeks offshore, for no extra payment. They have had enough.

“Our members provide an invaluable service offshore including providing emergency cover for no extra payment. They are understandably frustrated about the way they are being taken for granted and undervalued.

“We have informed the employer that we remain willing to enter into meaningful discussions on a pay rise but in the meantime our members are telling us enough is enough.”

The Union says the catering ballot increases the potential of a far wider North Sea dispute given that construction workers who are members of Unite, GMB and RMT are also being balloted on industrial action in connection with their terms and conditions.

Caterers Offshore Trade Association told Offshore Energy Today that it was extremely disappointed that Unite was pressing ahead with an industrial ballot.

COTA chair Andrew Thomson added: “This year’s settlement is all about protecting jobs. Our employees have never had their pay cut and we want to start negotiating next year’s settlement as soon as possible.

“We believe our offer is positive and realistic during challenging times for our industry. This vote means that we will have to postpone the commencement of wage negotiations for 2017-2018, something that will not help our employees or their families in planning their finances in the year ahead.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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