Oil and gas workers have hit out at what they deem to be “ridiculous” Covid-19 quarantine rules that have made a section of the industry “second-class citizens”.
Rig workers employed in the Norwegian sector have revealed how they, unlike their colleagues working on UK rigs, do not qualify for quarantine exemption and upon returning to shore are required to self-isolate for 14 days on penalty of a fine.
UK Government guidance stipulates only “workers required for the continued safe and secure operation, maintenance and essential support services for offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the UK” are exempt.
One Aberdeen worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said the guidance urgently needed to be amended to include all oil and gas workers.
He said: “The regulations as they stand just forget about a large section of the industry. We’re being treated like second-class citizens.
“It’s ridiculous; at the moment someone can fly in from Thailand, and there’s a few, and go to work on a UK rig without quarantine.
“Meanwhile, us lot working in the Norwegian, Danish and Dutch sectors have to come home and go into quarantine.”
Gas from Norwegian rigs accounted for around 72% of UK imports in 2018.
Another north-east worker said: “I can actually see some of the UK rigs from my rig on a nice day, we’re not far apart at all, but the problem is, our choppers fly back to Norway and then we take a flight back to Aberdeen.”
The riggers warned the rules “could cost jobs” if not changed and said some were on shift patterns that would require them to return to Norway before the UK quarantine was up.
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said he had been contacted by several constituents, adding it was clear the UK Government “needs to show flexibility” to the workforce to avoid forcing them into an “impossible situation that could cost jobs”.
Oil and Gas UK health and safety director Trevor Stapleton said: “We are not in a position to comment on how the UK Border Force are interpreting the new regulations.
“However, we appreciate this has created some confusion within the workforce in what are already difficult times, and we continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that any particular issues are addressed.”
The Home Office referred us to a 10-day-old Priti Patel speech that made no reference to the oil and gas sector.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There are exemptions to the regulations for workers arriving in Scotland who are essential to maintaining critical national infrastructure and other key aspects of the economy…
“There is no exemption for those who live in the UK and work abroad because we want to reduce the incidence of non-critical workers frequently crossing borders, with the increased risk that brings of virus transmission.”