A North Sea union called on Forties field operator Apache yesterday to intervene in a dispute involving two major contractors.
Wood Group Engineering (North Sea) has about 100 workers involved in engineering support on the Forties platforms, but it has lost the contract to rival Petrofac after a bidding process.
The RMT union is alleging that Wood employees will now have to apply for a job with Petrofac and, if successful, will have to work under different terms and conditions.
Petrofac said, however, that it was premature to discuss the potential terms and conditions of any future employment contracts.
Wood had expected that, as usual in these circumstances, its employees would be taken on by Petrofac under the same terms and conditions.
Tupe (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) normally only applies onshore, but North Sea contractors who have lost a contract regularly transfer the workers involved under the spirit of the regulations.
Jake Molloy, RMT regional organiser, said yesterday of the Apache contract: “In this case, and for no apparent reason, good employment practice is not to be applied.
“Instead, workers have been told by Petrofac that: Tupe will not apply; workers will have to apply for a job; if they are successful it will be on different terms and conditions, and there will be no continuity of service.
“This is an appalling way to treat working men and women. Apache could and should intervene here to protect these workers’ hard-earned rights, some of whom have over 20 years of service in the Forties field.
“Apache’s refusal to intervene can only mean they lie behind this outrageous action and have likely instructed Petrofac to act in this manner. Action like this belongs in a bygone era.”
Mr Molloy added that, earlier this week, he saw an e-mail sent by an Apache boss saying the North Sea region was having an excellent year and potentially could break all the previous production records set during its time as Forties operator.
He said: “It is shocking that contract staff who have contributed to this success should be exploited in this way.”
Bill Mintz, director of public affairs with US-based Apache, said: “Apache is not the employer of any of the contractor employees.
“This is a matter to be resolved by the contractors and their employees.”
A spokeswoman for Wood Group said: “Wood Group Engineering (North Sea) understands that this is an anxious period for our employees working on Apache’s North Sea platforms during the handover period.
“We are in discussions with Petrofac to resolve the complexities of the situation as quickly as possible and are striving for an acceptable outcome for our employees, respecting the spirit of Tupe.”
Petrofac said: “Conditions of Petrofac’s contract with Apache remain to be finalised and the personnel referred to remain employees of Wood Group. It is premature to discuss the potential terms and conditions of any future employment contracts. We continue to work closely with our customer and are in discussion with Wood Group.”