UK North Sea oil and gas groups going into "new era of understanding"

Aug 12, 1999 02:00 AM

Oil and gas companies operating in the UK North Sea signed a consultation arrangement with trade unions, promising to start a "new era of understanding" between them.
The ten-page agreement commits both sides to maintaining the development of a "forward looking, profitable, thriving and responsible offshore gas and oil industry" through consultation. It entails quarterly meetings of employers and unions, creation of "good" employment guidelines, the encouragement of best practice and closer liaison with contracting companies.
The document "recognises trade unions as stakeholders and social partners in a new era of employer-employee relations". John Monks, the Trades Union Congress general secretary, signed the document on behalf of seven unions with members in the offshore industry. "This is indicative of a new co-operation now at the core of modern industrial practices," he said.
Bob Connon, president of the UK Offshore Operators Association, who signed the document on behalf of the oil and gas companies, said the new arrangement acknowledged that "trade unions have changed with the times".
"The North Sea oil industry is now at a critical stage of its business lifecycle as it has reached maturity," he said. "This requires new means to maximise the recovery of resources. The consultation arrangements also show we share areas of common interest with the unions. This will open doors for a closer relationship." The deal was welcomed by the government. Alan Johnson, industry minister, said the arrangement demonstrated that "partnership is one of the keys to competitiveness".
Pay and benefits, recruitment, manning levels and work cycles are not covered by the agreement. However, it covers areas of common interest such as health and safety and training.
The agreement will also create a jointly managed disputes resolution procedure to ensure conflicts are avoided. The arrangements state that "no precipitate industrial action will be taken such as lock-outs, strikes or other forms of non co-operation until all procedures have been fully exhausted".
The unions have also secured the right to visit installations in the North Sea to meet employees. At present only two companies - Total-Fina and Phillips Petroleum - have recognition agreements with unions. The right of union officials to visit rigs is seen by unions as a chance to expand their influence.

The employers covered by the arrangement include Mobil, Chevron, Conoco, Sagra Petroleum, BP Amoco, and Texaco. The unions involved in the union offshore oil committee are the AEEU engineering union, the pilots' union Balpa, the GMB general union, the MSF technicians' union, the merchant naval officers Numsat, the RMT transport union and the TGWU.

Source: Robert Taylor via Newspage
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