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Working offshore

Major survey of offshore oil and gas workers reveals four in five would consider moving to work in another industry
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Working offshore

Four in five offshore oil and gas workers would consider leaving the industry, according to a major new survey of the offshore workforce.

Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace UK have published a report, OFFSHORE: Workers’ Views on Industry Conditions and the Energy Transition, in which 1,383 offshore oil and gas workers (4.5% of the workforce) were surveyed.

81% of respondents said they would consider switching to another sector. The top priority for workers was job security, with 43% of respondents saying they had been made redundant or furloughed since March. 

One worker, Frank*, who has been in the industry for 40 years, said: ‘Morale is low, certainly in Aberdeen where 75% of the people are contractors… I know guys who have had two or three pay cuts over six months, no negotiations, nothing.’

Supporting transition

Campaigners are calling for the UK and Scottish governments to sit down with workers to shape policy together, so their experiences and ideas are used to steer Covid-19 recovery packages and the energy transition.

‘These workers are the backbone of our energy sector but have faced years of job insecurity amid volatile oil markets, lax regulation and now the global pandemic.  

‘If the UK government is serious about levelling up and transitioning to renewable energy, workers’ voices must be at the centre of that transition process. The government must ensure oil and gas workers are supported into secure and sustainable jobs.’

Just Transition lead campaigner for Platform

The future of the energy industry

Workers were asked about their working conditions, the effects of Covid-19 and the oil price crisis and alternative employment. 

43% of the respondents had been made redundant or furloughed since March 2020, and 91% of had not heard of the term ‘just transition’. 

Given the option of retraining to work elsewhere in the energy sector, more than half would be interested in renewables and offshore wind. 

Despite their relevant knowledge and experience, no public body has attempted a broad consultation of offshore workers about their livelihoods and the future of the energy industry.

For example, since launching in 2018, the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission has prioritised private businesses, industry representatives and regional enterprises.

Meanwhile the sector deal being drawn up by UK energy ministers has no vehicle for consulting oil and gas workers.

‘An absolute disgrace’

Written responses in the survey revealed some of the hardships that workers have faced, both in the recent pandemic and as a result of volatility in the industry.

One worker said: ‘I have now been off work for 14 weeks and I have not received a penny due to me being employed by an agency. They have just ended my contract and hung me out to dry. I do not fall into any category for receiving any payment from anywhere.’

Another respondent answered: ‘I just think it’s a better work environment out of the oil and gas industry. It’s always boom and bust to some degree but the last five years have not been a pleasant environment to work in – that’s five years of mental toil.’

One response states: ‘It seems the oil companies have got away with everything but the workforce gets hammered… The way the industry is treating their workers, especially those in a situation similar to mine is an absolute disgrace and should not be allowed to happen.’

Renewables training and investment

Survey answers also provide insight into solutions that workers consider central to protecting industry workers’ career prospects. 

One worker suggested: ‘It should be a condition of getting a licence to build a wind farm in Scotland that the fabrication is awarded to a Scottish based yard.’

A common theme was offering opportunities and financial support for retraining. 

One person said: ‘Offer training to allow skills to be transferred from oil & gas to renewables sectors. Invest heavily in renewables. Encourage children, students, graduates away from an unsustainable oil and gas sector and into renewables. As Scotland has huge wind/wave/hydro resources she must become a front runner in the global renewables sector.’

And another stated: ‘Retrain while keeping a liveable wage. Last time there was a slump in oil prices there was opportunity to retrain but it was near impossible to navigate the red tape to get access to the training.’

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

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