North Sea's independent contractors fight new rates cut

May 24, 1999 02:00 AM

Many of the North Sea's independent contractors - more than 1,000 self-employed engineers and designers - are applying for membership of the offshore unions MSF and OILC in a bid to fight an 8 % rates cut being imposed on them by the Offshore Contractors' Association.
Just five months after making a 10 % cut in the rates it pays self-employed North Sea sub-contractors, the OCA has announced the further 8 % cut as a direct response to pressures applied by hard hit oil companies.
The original cut saw the North Sea industry lose 1,500 sub-contractors. Meanwhile rumours abound that a further 7 % rates cut is also in the pipeline.
The two unions are joining forces to bring in legal experts and accountants and draw the matter to the attention of the Office of Fair Trading.

Roger Spiller, the MSF's chief North Sea representative, said his union's lawyers are suggesting that, by acting together, the OCA member companies could be acting in restraint of trade, suggesting that they are behavingas a cartel. This allegation is strongly denied by the OCA.
Speaking of the situation the self-employed contractors find themselves in, Spiller said: "Many of these individuals are independent contractors. If you have an organisation that dictates rates, that is in effect a conspiracy. It could well be, therefore, in restraint of trade."
Spiller said that, given the shortage of skilled people in the industry, the decision to cut rates is 'ludicrous'. He said: "These are people the industry can't afford to lose, and at a time when the Government-industry Task Force is trying to find ways of training people."

Source: IINX via Iinoil
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