Nautilus International has backed calls for the UK government to take urgent action to save oil and gas worker jobs from the catastrophic economic effects of Covid-19 in the industry, which has seen the collapse in the price of oil to under $25 per barrel.
Oil and Gas Committee (OGC) partner union RMT has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, seeking urgent clarification on the terms of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme announced last week and to demand broader actions to protect workers in the offshore oil and gas industry.
Nautilus and RMT had welcomed the announcement in a joint statement with the UK Chamber of Shipping but continue to highlight their 'serious concerns' for members working in the offshore oil and gas sector.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: 'We have written to the Chancellor because our members in the offshore oil and gas sector are being ignored by government in this time of national crisis.
'The offshore trade unions have a central role to play in protecting our skilled offshore and supply chain workers from the effects of the pandemic and the international oil crisis.
'The government has to take steps now to work with us all to formulate an emergency industrial strategy that saves oil and gas jobs from cut throat competition and builds the foundations for sustainable recovery. After being treated like expendable assets during the last oil price crisis, offshore workers deserve this basic level of protection of their wages, health and skills.'
In 2019 nearly 75% of North Sea workers were employed by contractors including the catering, engineering, technicians, and drilling. Contractors are supported by a supply chain of skilled UK- based workers including commercial dive crews and together they reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels.
'Without effective action to retain jobs and skills in the offshore sector, we will see a dramatic loss in capacity that will scar our economy and society for the long term,' Mr Cash said.
On 12 March the UK's oil and gas sector association OGUK banned people from travelling to offshore installations such as platforms if they have travelled to certain countries affected by the coronavirus in the previous 14 days.
The ban came after Equinor reported the oil industry's first coronavirus infection on an offshore installation, highlighting the challenge in preventing contamination for thousands of workers living in the close quarters on rigs and platforms.
Nautilus members who are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.