Oil workers are being balloted over whether to agree to changes to their pay and conditions from the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA) including an additional 15 minutes working.
It’s understood the move could see the axe of the equivalent of a tea break for staff.
The changes come after fresh proposals were agreed to by both the OCA and unions in January this year after protracted discussions from both sides.
A ballot by both Unite and GMB is asking its members whether to accept the proposed changes or to reject them with the vote closing by November 4th.
According to documents seen by Energy Voice, unions have been calling for an increase in pay, improved sick pay and the introduction of paid travel to employers’ onshore base.
In a letter to union officials, the OCA said the industry continues to be under “severe economic and financial pressures” as the price of oil shows no signs of recovery.
Chief executive Paul Atkinson said the OCA offer would see an increase in “direct productive pay” for members, but curb non-productive costs which are an “inhibitor” to the industry.
Workers are being asked to accept changes to their shifts which are currently 10 hours and 30 minutes.
Instead, staff are being asked to accept an increase to 10 hours 45 minutes.
In the letter workers have been told the move would “help to enhance the productivity of our industry at this critical juncture.”
Unite boss Tommy Campbell said both unions were currently balloting members but he did “not expect” there would be “wide support” with the ballot expected to be rejected.
The proposed changes to be implemented would come into force from a date of approval until April 2018 if they are agreed too.
Under the conditions, workers would get an increase in sick pay for weeks one to 13 of £1.47, while in weeks 14 to 28 it would increase by £2.81.
A number of additional items have also been put forward for negotiation by the OCA described as an “administrative burden”.
This includes changes to stand-by rig rates, changing pay from a condition of eight hours for seven days to being capped to 40 hours a week Monday to Friday.
The OCA said it believed the change would help to maintain a more “stable and secure employment environment” for members and other company employees and “stem” recent job losses.
Part night shift will also be removed but the OCA said it would be compensated for by the increase in the base hourly rate which would be payable for all hours worked.
In January, the threat of strike action by North Sea oil workers was lifted after a dramatic breakthrough in negotiations.
More than half of the Unite members balloted agreed to the latest offer from the member companies, including Wood Group PSN and Amec Foster Wheeler.
The result brought to an end a year-long dispute over changes to shift patterns, the controversial move to three weeks on, three weeks off, as well as pay, conditions and redundancies.
Offshore Contractors Association members agreed to accept improvements to the terms and conditions being offered to workers, specifically around when they would be able to take holidays with regard to a change in shift patterns.
The changes to holiday periods will mean those on a three on, three off rota would only take time off during their field break.
However, staff who currently complete a two weeks on, two weeks off rota, have been offered a proposal of one extended field break of 18 days per year, which gives them the opportunity to arrange a two week holiday.
Chief executive of the OCA Paul Atkinson said:“The latest proposals, which would add 15 minutes to the working day, are part of a wider package that the OCA has presented to our partner Unions GMB and Unite, in an effort to find a more productive way of working to secure long term employment and the viability of our industry, and should be seen in that context.
“It’s important to note that the package also includes an increase in the hourly rate paid to workers and improved sick pay.
“I very much hope that the outcome of the ballots being conducted by GMB and Unite reflects the need and understanding that we must all work together to maximise economic recovery for the UKCS and secure jobs for the years to come.”