EIGHTY jobs are set to go at Sullom Voe Terminal as EnQuest looks to further reduce its costs.
Of the 80 budgeted positions set to be cut, 60 of these are EnQuest roles, with the others contracted jobs.
Voluntary redundancy is being offered and the company wants to minimise compulsory redundancies.
Sullom Voe Terminal general manager Craig Lennox said the cuts represented 20 per cent of EnQuest’s current headcount.
He said the company, which is cutting costs with the aim of attracting new business, is looking to have the changes in place “by the start of next year”.
As the operator, EnQuest has already reduced the operating cost of Sullom Voe Terminal by one quarter to £150 million.
It took over running the terminal in 2017 from BP and it sought to make operations more efficient.
The job losses, meanwhile, come at a time when the export of oil from the Clair field is being reviewed by pipeline operator BP.
It is thought that the future of the terminal would be placed into jeopardy if it is decided that Sullom Voe should be bypassed when exporting oil from the Clair field.
Lennox said on Wednesday morning that EnQuest started the process of advising its employees on Tuesday.
“We will be in a position to consult with them formally later this month,” he added.
“We did give them the heads at the start of the year that it would be mid-year that we would probably be in that position.”
The terminal manager added that some of the staff could be offered posts elsewhere in EnQuest.
“What we want to do is to mitigate as far as practically possible compulsory redundancy,” Lennox said.
“There are two distinct ways that we look at that. One is the redeployment of some of our Sullom Voe colleagues potentially to other EnQuest assets, and the other one is to offer voluntary redundancy.
“The demographics of our employee base means that we are aware that there may be some people who would express a desire to retire.”
He admitted that uncertainty of roles over the last number of months may have been “unsettling” for staff.
“I think it’d be fair to say, when we talked to people about where we are, some of them have been almost pleased that we’ve know got on with it, because to some degree that uncertainty is unsettling for people,” Lennox said.
The manager acknowledged that when EnQuest inherited the terminal in 2017 there may have been an overprovision in staff numbers.
“When I came in, our own employees observed that there were too many people and too many jobs,” he said.
Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s development committee Alastair Cooper, meanwhile, said the news was “expected to some extent”.
“I’m very disappointed we’ve lost 80 good jobs, but at the same we need to look to the long term and this will be a step towards hopefully securing the long term future of Sullom Voe,” he added.
Cooper added that “we need to be very careful” that the environment and safety remains a priority as costs are reduced.
Lennox said that these two matters remain of utmost importance to operations at the site.
“Safety and protection of our environment is what the reputation of Sullom Voe is built on – 40 years of safe reliable service, and that’s what we wish to continue for many, many years to come,” he said.
“It will not be in any way compromised. What we’re looking at is a reduction in activity at site, not in any way a reduction on any of the standards by which we wish to operate.”
Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said that “while this news is not altogether unexpected, it is still disappointing”.
“The unions and the company must now work together in the best interests of the workers, their families, and the community more widely,” he added.
“This process must be handled as sensitively as possible.
“As ever, my door is always open to anyone who has concerns, and they should have no hesitations in getting in touch with my office in Lerwick.”
Unite regional officier John Clark, however, said the scale of the cuts came as a shock to the union.
“There has been utter dismay and bemusement following the announcement by EnQuest to reduce the workforce by a quarter,” he said.
“The sheer scale of the possible redundancies, which includes 60 full time employees and 20 contractors has taken everyone by surprise. To add insult to injury, EnQuest is also proposing to weaken the existing terms and conditions of the workforce.
“Unite will not stand idly by and allow jobs to be sacrificed to facilitate a competitive edge for other projects. We will explore every option including balloting our members for industrial action.”