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Union to appeal over North Sea workers’ leave

Union to appeal over North Sea workers’ leave
Union bosses are poised to appeal to Scotland's highest civil court over a ruling that offshore workers are not entitled to extra paid leave under working-time regulations.

Union bosses are poised to appeal to Scotland’s highest civil court over a ruling that offshore workers are not entitled to extra paid leave under working-time regulations.

In March, the Employment Appeal Tribunal reversed an Aberdeen employment tribunal’s decision relating to the holiday entitlement of offshore workers.

Jake Molloy, regional organiser for the RMT union, said yesterday an application had been lodged – and granted – for an appeal to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

An attempt is also being made to have the matter referred to the European Court of Justice – potentially dragging the long-running row through the courts for many more years.

Mr Molloy said it was likely to be the end of this year at least before the case reached the Court of Session.

According to union bosses, about 14,000 North Sea workers are losing out on the right to four weeks’ annual paid leave over and above normal time off.

European working-time regulations were extended offshore in 2003 and since that date a series of tribunal hearings have taken place to determine how the rules should be interpreted and applied.

Oil and gas employers insist that time off work enjoyed by offshore workers, typically more than 26 weeks a year, more than meets the minimum legal amount of annual leave they must provide.

Mr Molloy said he was “supremely confident” of a favourable outcome for offshore workers in the dispute, no matter how long it took.

He added: “European commissioners have assured us repeatedly that this legislation was drafted with the aim of reducing hours of work – and normal leave was not to be included in holiday time.”

Malcolm Webb, chief executive at industry employers’ body Oil & Gas UK, said: “At this time of severe economic challenge and rising unemployment, I am at a loss to understand how the unions can believe that now seeking to take their long-running litigation on the working-time directive to the court in Europe can be in the best interest of their members.

“With the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in March 2009, our industry had, at last, achieved clarity on the correct underlying legal position, without in any way fettering the negotiating rights of the unions.”

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