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Gas plant workers balloted on strike action

| Written by Chris Cope

Shetland Gas Plant started production in February 2016. Photo: Total Shetland Gas Plant started production in February 2016. Photo: Total AROUND 70 workers at the Shetland Gas Plant are voting on strike action over a pay dispute.

The ballot, which involves Aker Solutions staff, is due to close on Friday (29 September). The company said it is "working closely with union representatives and its workforce to bring this to resolution".

It is thought that if the 71 Aker workers went on strike then the gas plant - which has been operated at Sullom Voe by Total since opening last year and takes in gas from the Laggan-Tormore fields west of Sheltand - would have to stop production.

Unite regional organiser John Boland said the dispute involves a failure by the company to offer a wage rise, as well as the non-payment of holiday money.

He said Aker's stance is that they are not willing to negotiate with the union unless the ballot is off the table.

"The anniversary date for the wage negotiations is the first of April, so we put a claim in at the start of February thinking we would have plenty of time," Boland said.

"Consistently Aker have come back and said that they can't come back to us and discuss the wage claim because they need to discuss it with Total.

"I understood that to a certain degree, but it's seven months along, sitting waiting for them to respond, so we've decided that we actually had to ballot. Now that we've actually balloted, their response now is 'well we're now willing to negotiate, but we won't negotiate unless you stop the ballot'.

 "From our position, we're no further forward. I said to them I'm happy to sit down and see what they want to negotiate, which may result in us actually stopping the ballot. But we can't stop without anything being on the table."

Boland added that the holiday pay issues relate to alleged non-payments and rolling of holiday pay into the basic hourly rate.

A spokesman for Aker said: "We were formally notified on August 22, 2017 that Unite the Union intended to ballot their Aker Solutions members at the Shetland Gas Plant to engage in strike action or industrial action short of strike with regard to disputes relating to pay and holiday pay.

"The ballot closes on September 29, 2017 and Aker Solutions remains firmly committed to working closely with union representatives and its workforce to bring this to resolution."

It is not the first time the threat of strike or industrial action has faced the gas plant.

Aound 800 members of the Unite and GMB trade unions planned two 24 hour walk outs during the plant's construction in February 2014 over shared accommodation and travel time before calling it off, while an unofficial walk-out took place later in the year.

Last year scaffolders and other contract workers were balloted on strike action over sharing rooms.

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