Offshore crew members for a Scottish windfarm have been let go in favour of utilising foreign labour.
Letters seen by Energy Voice confirm that Solstad Offshore, a supply ship firm for the energy sector, has let go of the 36 workers it engaged through the agency ERSG to work on the Normand Navigator in favour of a cheaper overseas workforce.
The 36-person crew was set to man the Norway-registered key supply ship, the Normand Navigator, working on the Neart Na Gaoithe offshore wind project in the Firth of Forth off Fife.
The alternative crew is said to be “largely Filipino” and will be working for “significantly lower rates of pay,” according to Jake Molloy regional organiser of the RMT trade union.
Solstad and ERSG have been asked for comment on the matter, first reported by the Herald.
It’s understood the move follows a visa extension for offshore wind migrant workers.
In 2017 the then-home secretary rolled out a concession to Immigration Rules, allowing the employment of foreign nationals who are joining vessels engaged in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind projects in UK territorial waters.
The concession will expire at the end of April next year.
This kind of action cannot be tolerated!
Mr Molloy told Energy Voice: “I appreciate the company is claiming they pay the minimum wage, but we have experience of contractors paying well below that rate and as low as £3.60 per hour.
“Pay aside, the fact they are flying workers half-way around the world is a direct contradiction of the UK and Scottish Government’s commitments to a “Just Transition” creating thousands of good, well-paid jobs in a green recovery!
“This demonstrates we are a million miles away from that, and that in fact exploitation of workers on low rates of pay to boost already massive profits is the order of the day!
“And at a time when we, the consumers are seeing our energy bills continue to escalate, this kind of action cannot be tolerated!”
Father of three left in the cold on the run-up to Christmas
One worker that has been let go got in contact with RMT regarding this “tragic situation”.
He has lived in Scotland with his family for 17 years and has worked as an offshore steward for over nine.
This contractor signed a “12-month contract from ERSG and decided to work on the Solstad Offshore, ‘Normand Navigator'”.
“Several times” he checked with ESRG a representative whether the work would last for the intended 12 months and he “received assurances that it would be a long project.”
Because of this, the contractor in question turned down other work in favour of job security, he wrote: “I am a father of three children and I cannot afford to be unstable, especially during the holiday season.”
The father of three told RMT: “The first slight doubt that appeared in my head from ERSG was that I had to sign a contract that said I had to pay for transferring my earned money £60 for each transfer.
“I was also informed that I have to sign another contract with Payworx and that I will be paid in the UMBRELLA system. There was no mention of this before.
“Nobody explained to me or my colleagues (there are several of us) what this system is about.
“We are informed that this is required by the British Government and that there is no other option.
“We stayed, I was manipulated into the fact that I have to be employed by the umbrella company and that there is no other option.
“I was not aware that I would have to pay for the employer’s NIN and TAX!”
Despite his reservations, the contractor pressed forward.
“The day before boarding the ship, we were accommodated in a hotel in Newcastle, two strangers in one room, which was very uncomfortable and unprofessional,” the father wrote.
When he questioned the living situation, the contractor was told by an ESRG manager “it was easier for them to organize it this way.”
He added: “Nobody asked anyone for their opinion on this.”
Problems with pay
In addition to a lack of transparency in the ways in which the contractors would be paid and “uncomfortable” accommodation, the father of three also experienced issues with receiving his wage.
“Throughout the contract period, no one gave us clear information on how many taxes and additional fees will be taken from us,” the contractor said.
“ERSG and Payworx employees avoided this topic like plague.
“Throughout the contract, despite the ERSG’s avoidance of answering uncomfortable questions, we worked to complete our tasks.
“We were convinced that we had jobs for the next 12 months.
“On one day, after 2 weeks of work, there was information from the previous shift that there were problems with the payment of money on time.
“Some of my colleagues checked whether we really should be paid under the umbrella system and there was also information that this is not true. The company denied it.”