The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) will struggle to revitalise exploration if the industry continues to haemorrhage jobs and skills, the RMT union warned yesterday.
RMT also said the new regulator – launched earlier this year – could be hampered in its attempts to stimulate investment in the sector by firms undermining collective bargaining deals.
And it urged the OGA to “get an early grip” on growing maintenance backlogs which threatened safety and the long-term future of North Sea production.
RMT said the offshore skills base was under “serious threat” from the way maximising economic recovery is being interpreted.
It also claimed there was “sub-standard” safety performance offshore, and said there should be OGA representation on the industry body currently being set up to oversee the introduction of the EU Offshore Safety Directive.
The union added: “The OGA must challenge practices in the offshore supply chain, such as social dumping on offshore supply and decommissioning vessels, if it is to affect changes to the culture and commercial behaviour of offshore oil and gas companies in order to maximise sustainable economic recovery.”
RMT national secretary Steve Todd said: “UK workers in the offshore sector and the supply chain are being hounded out of jobs by voracious employers who are exploiting the low oil price to permanently cut labour costs.
“This practice, unless halted by the commercial regulator, the OGA, will be terminal for the UK’s offshore and supply chain skills base.”
A written submission from the union to the Department for Energy and Climate Change came as Northern Isles Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael praised the OGA over its support for the Sullom Voe oil terminal in Shetland in the wake of BP announcing last week that output from the Schiehallion field will be shipped elsewhere.
Mr Carmichael met OGA bosses in London yesterday to discuss the future of Sullom Voe.
He also highlighted the authority’s key role in supporting the terminal at a parliamentary energy and climate change select committee meeting.
The MP said: “I am pleased that the OGA recognises the continuing strategic importance of Sullom Voe and its significance to the Shetland economy.
“I told the chief executive and chairman (Andy Samuel and Sir Patrick Brown respectively) that I would like to see high-level contact between the authority and the isles, and I was pleased to receive an early assurance of this.”
A statement from the OGA last night said securing a viable long-term future for Sullom Voe was one of its priorities.
On the RMT submission, Mr Samuel added: “The OGA has established regular meetings with trade unions, in collaboration with the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and we look forward to continuing this constructive dialogue as we work together to create a sustainable future for the UK oil and gas industry.
“Encouraging greater collaboration and cooperation between companies, and doing everything possible to retain skills and expertise in the UK is essential.”