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Gas plant faces ballot on industrial action

SCAFFOLDERS and other contract workers completing the new Shetland Gas Plant are heading for industrial action in a dispute about sharing rooms.

Around 60 scaffolders as well as other men working on the plant called in trade union Unite after being forced to share small rooms at the Sella Ness accommodation block.

However main contractor Petrofac say the men have signed an agreement – the Commissioning Shetland Islands Agreement (CISA) – to share rooms and are being paid compensation for the inconvenience.

The dispute blew up two weeks ago when scaffolders were threatened with the sack when they worked to rule over the issue.

They had returned to the site after the Christmas break to be told they had to share, having enjoyed a room to themselves last year.

Unite regional officer John Boland
Unite regional officer John Boland said there was a health and safety risk if men had to go to work after a disturbed night.

“If you’ve got someone snoring all night in extremely small rooms with two fully grown men, it’s just a risk to them, you’ve got people coming in at different times, you’ve got people’s sleep getting broken,” he said.

Petrofac say the problem has been caused by an accommodation shortage after gas plant operators Total and staff working for BP at the Sullom Voe oil terminal moved into the Sella Ness block.

However the Petrofac contractors complain that while Total and BP employees have a room to themselves, they are forced to share.

Boland said Petrofac had told him during talks this week that they would not pay for extra accommodation.

“We had hoped to get some sense seen so we didn’t have to ballot our members, but it’s now looking likely we will,” he said.

“Unless something comes back we will in the next short period be balloting our members.”

Meanwhile the workers are sharing rooms “under protest”, he said.

A spokesman for Petrofac said: “We are always prepared to listen to any concerns in connection with our operations and remain open to dialogue with the unions.

“We welcomed the opportunity to meet with Unite on 13 April to clearly outline our position and to confirm that post transfer of care and custody to Total, work at site for both Petrofac and its subcontractors is still governed under the CSIA (Commissioning Shetland Island Agreement).”

It is understood Petrofac will be leaving the site in a matter of weeks, giving little time for a dispute to develop into industrial action.

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