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Energy / Union to ballot for industrial action at Sullom Voe Terminal

But terminal says it has still to be advised by Unite the Union

Sullom Voe Terminal. Photo: John Bateson

SULLOM Voe Terminal could be hit by strike action later this year should members of the Unite union vote in favour of industrial action to resolve a dispute over terms and conditions including pension rights.

The union said on Thursday that it is to ballot its membership at the terminal, in Shetland, after what they described as “the end of a of a lengthy internal dispute process involving the union and the company which has produced no agreement”.

But terminal operator EnQuest said the company had not been advised by Unite on the outcome of its consultative ballot.

SVT general manager Craig Lennox said: “EnQuest is disappointed to have been informed, via the press, that our SVT Unite the Union (Unite) members are proposing to ballot on industrial action to oppose our revised plan to:

  1. a) freeze pay and allowances for one year for the first time in over a decade
  2. b) reduce the discretionary employer pension contribution from 10x to 5x the government guidance.

“On average this will still maintain annual six figure reward packages for SVT Unite members. We believe what we are planning is reasonable and Unite’s proposed response is disappointing.”

Unite said that in a consultative ballot held over the festive period, 98 per cent of Unite members voted to reject EnQuest’s proposed changes to terms and conditions on a 77 per cent turnout.

The union’s regional industrial officer, John Clark said: “Unite will now move forward with an industrial action ballot at Sullom Voe which we have received a resounding mandate for from our membership.

“We have reached the end of a lengthy internal dispute process that has resulted in no shift in EnQuest’s position.

“Unite will continue to support our members at every step of this difficult process and we will fiercely oppose the company’s unjustified proposals. Strike action is now on the table and a real prospect.”

EnQuest took over the running of Sullom Voe Terminal from BP in December 2018 and has since been working on restructuring the operation of the terminal in order to win new business.

Operational cost have been slashed by a quarter from £200million to £150 million during 2019, and in July last year the company announced it was seeking to cut 80 jobs from the terminal’s workforce.

The ExQuest spokesperson added: “Since taking over operatorship of SVT, significant progress has been made at the terminal whilst staying focused on Safe Results.

“We are greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of the teams in shaping the terminal’s future so that we remain competitive and best-placed to maximise the life of the terminal, supporting the future of the North Sea.”

Both sides are to meet again during the week of 13 January in an attempt to try and resolve the dispute which may include seeking a referral to ACAS.