THE NORTH Sea faces its first wave of strikes for a generation, as Wood Group staff voted in favour of industrial action.

Unite and RMT confirmed that a ballot of Aberdeen-based Wood Group employees working across Shell operated platforms has returned with a massive majority supporting industrial action in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

As many as seven of Royal Dutch Shell's North Sea platforms could be affected. Trade unions Unite and RMT balloted 200 of around 450 oil workers working across Shell’s platforms in the Brent oilfield.


The unions said there were huge majorities in support of industrial action in the form of strike and action short of strike.

In the case of Unite 99.1% voted in favour of industrial action while 98.5% of RMT members voted to support industrial action.

Unite claimed Shell were engaging a "scab workforce" through various agencies to cover for any potential industrial action in a move it described as "extremely disturbing".

Wood Group workers are employed on Shell platforms to carry out maintenance work.

Weak oil prices are expected to cost around 120,000 oil workers in Britain their job by the end of the year, according to industry group Oil and Gas UK, and many have had to accept pay cuts.

Wood Group announced in February a nine percent cut in wages of around 200 British contractors, following pay reductions in December 2015 and May 2014.

The looming strike threat came after months of talks between Group and the unions, which broke down after being referred to dispute resolution group Acas on Friday.

Union representatives say workers are opposed to being paid less while being asked to work longer hours across more demanding shift patterns.

The unions said they would now consider how to proceed and were open to further talks.

Shell said its platforms concerned were Brent Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, Gannet, Nelson, Curlew and Shearwater.

We are committed to continuing to engage openly with our employees and the unions with a view to reaching a positive resolution," said Dave Stewart, chief executive for Wood Group's eastern region business unit.


He added that workers affected by pay cuts would see their salary drop by three percent rather than 30 percent as suggested by the unions.

John Boland, Unite regional officer said any future talks "must respect the workers and especially with regards to exercising their democratic rights in a dispute situation".

"Despite the best efforts of the full time officials and workforce shop stewards to broker a deal with the company, talks have failed to find an acceptable deal for the workforce," he said.

"We now find ourselves forced down the route of industrial action and in the coming days the workforce will determine the timing and nature of that action."

Jake Molloy, RMT regional organiser said: "The workforce message is clear, ‘enough is enough’ and it’s little wonder we find ourselves in this situation."