Trade unions will today take their fight to secure more paid holidays for thousands of North Sea oil and gas workers to the highest court in the UK.
The long-running battle over offshore workers’ rights will be heard at the Supreme Court in London.
A year ago, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that shift patterns of offshore workers satisfied all the requirements of European working-time rules.
The judgment was issued four months after the RMT and Unite unions appealed against an employment tribunal ruling denying offshore workers more paid holidays.
Industry body Oil and Gas UK hailed Lord Eassie’s decision and urged the two unions not to continue their battle to secure extra paid leave for about 14,000 North Sea workers.
RMT said the verdict was “a real kick in the teeth” for members, while Unite said it would consider the “complex” judgment before deciding its next step.
The two unions, which say members are losing out on the right to four weeks’ annual paid leave over and above normal time off, launched a further appeal.
The case will now be considered during a two-day hearing at the Supreme Court.
Willie Wallace, north-east officer for the Unite union, said it could consider taking the row to the European courts, depending on the Supreme Court ruling.
“The case has been going on for about seven years now,” he said. “Offshore workers are being treated a lot differently from the way you would treat someone who works onshore.
“It affects thousands of workers.
“Depending on how the decision goes in the Supreme Court, I think there are opportunities to go to Europe. But we have to wait to see what the Supreme Court says.
“Our legal team are very confident that we can get a good result.”
European working-time regulations were extended offshore in 2003 and since then, a series of tribunal hearings have taken place to determine how the rules should be interpreted and applied.
Employers say time off work, typically 26-plus weeks a year, more than meets the minimum legal requirement for paid leave.
The row stems from an employment tribunal case against Transocean International Resources and other firms in which seven staff claimed they were denied paid annual leave they were entitled to under the working-time rules.
Most offshore workers work a shift pattern of two weeks on followed by two weeks off.
The unions claim time onshore is a break between shifts and distinct from annual leave.