WORKERS at Shetland Gas Plant have started the first of five planned 24-hours strikes in a dispute over proposed changes to the shift rota system.
Staff employed by Aker Solutions on the Total-owned site say the proposed changes from the current two weeks on/three weeks off rota to a new three weeks on/three weeks off followed by three weeks on/four weeks off system would undermine health and safety at the plant and cause disruptions to family life.
Members of the Unite union voted overwhelmingly last month for industrial action not just at the gas plant but also on Total’s offshore installations.
Operator Total has confirmed that production at the gas plant is continuing despite the walkout.
Speaking outside the main gate on Wednesday morning, Unite’s regional industrial officer John Clark said feelings among members were strong, “without a doubt”.
He said Total had recognised that the loathed 3:3/3:4 shift pattern could have adverse health implications for the workforce and had agreed to recompense its staff for the changes while Aker Solutions, working on the same site, had not.
Clark added that Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University was carrying out research into the impact of the rota pattern which Total want to roll out on all its facilities in the UK.
“Total have realised that there is an issue with the shift pattern and have agreed to give its workforce at the plant compensation, while Aker Solutions is refusing to do likewise,” he said.
One of those on the picket line, who asked not to be named, said that all workers at the gas plant should be treated equally. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” he said.
Clark added that the union was always willing to negotiate. Both sides will meet again on Monday.
A spokeswoman for Aker Solutions said a new offer had been made: “We remain in close dialogue with the trade unions, our employees and our customer throughout this period of consultation and have now issued our employees with revised terms and conditions, which reflect a salary enhancement, in an attempt to bring this to resolution.”
A spokesman for Total said:“We have carried out a full risk assessment and ensured that the gas plant remains a safe working environment for those who will remain at their posts.
“Given the nature of the roles carried out by those taking part in the industrial action we can also confirm that production will continue from the gas plant.”
The next strike days at the plant have been scheduled for 27 March, 10 April, 27 April and 8 May.