Oil firm Total said yesterday that it would make 250 workers redundant in the north-east following its takeover of a rival company.
The job losses delivered a blow to a North Sea oil sector looking for signs of optimism following three tough years of low oil prices.
French energy giant Total said it would do its best to minimise redundancies and find new postings for those affected.
A trade union official said the numbers involved were “scary” and warned of more redundancies to come.
Total completed the £5.8billion acquisition of Maersk Oil UK earlier this month, cementing its position as one of the biggest operators in the North Sea.
The combination gave Total E&P UK − headquartered in Westhill, Aberdeenshire − a total headcount of about 1,500 in the north-east.
A consultation has been launched to reduce that figure by around 250.
The transaction hands Total a 49.99% operated stake in one of the UK’s biggest offshore gas developments, the Culzean field, which is expected to come online in 2019.
Both businesses employed more than 700 people in exploration and production in the north-east when the deal was first announced in August.
At the time, Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said the merger would create “the opportunity to do some rationalisation”.
It was not until yesterday that the scale of the redundancies became widely known.
Total’s spokesman said: “Following the acquisition of Maersk Oil we have reviewed our operations in Aberdeen and are now consulting with staff on the future size of our business there.
“We anticipate that this will result in a reduction of around 250 positions held today by staff and contractors.
“Every effort will be made to minimise redundancies and to find alternative posts in other parts of Total’s global business for those staff in Aberdeen whose positions may close.”
RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said the announcement was in stark contrast to a report published today by Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), which paid tribute to the sector’s resilience.
OGUK said mergers and acquisitions worth almost £6billion had been announced last year, and that more would follow in 2018.
Mr Molloy warned that further takeovers raised the prospect of additional job losses.
He said: “It’s hard to see how you can talk up the positives when you’ve got the impact of an acquisition resulting in the loss of 250 jobs. I do not see many workers popping champagne corks.
“It shows how fragile the sector is − they’re scary numbers.”
Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, said the news was “disappointing” and that despite OGUK’s positive report, the industry “remained in a very challenging environment”.