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Council / Tug workers to press ahead with overtime ban

Sullom Voe harbour tugs at work. Photo: John Bateson

AROUND 40 towage workers employed by Shetland Islands Council are to press ahead with an overtime ban after negotiations failed to reach an agreement.

The union Unite has confirmed that if no progress takes place in the coming weeks, then strike action on the tugs at Sella Ness – which work in the port of Sullom Voe – remains a possibility.

The union added that the overtime ban will “hugely disrupt” the multi-million pound contract to bring oil tankers on to the shore for oil processing at Sullom Voe Terminal and also on production for the Brent and Ninian fields

The overtime ban will begin on 5 July, and will continue over a seven-week period.

The union said the dispute revolves around workers being denied a ‘service award’ after their transfer to Shetland Islands Council in 2006.

Unite industrial officer John Clark said: “Unite has continually been thwarted by the intransigence of the Shetland Islands Council over the long service award. The towage workers are asking for equal treatment which for 15 years has been denied to them since their transfer.

“This situation is completely unacceptable and unjust. Unless the council accepts liability, then industrial action will commence on the 5 July initially for seven weeks.

“We also have a mandate to take strike action which will be an inevitable course if the council doesn’t see sense. The overtime ban will hugely disrupt oil processing and production having a serious impact on a multi-million pound contract.”

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said: “We are disappointed to have received notification of Unite’s intention to take industrial action.

“We remain committed to welcoming our towage staff into the council’s standard terms and conditions of employment and resolving this dispute.

“The towage staff are currently on a package of protected terms and conditions after transferring into the council and therefore we are unable to award one council benefit in isolation.

“It is our view that negotiations are ongoing and the next meeting is scheduled for this Friday 25 June.”