Oil firm EnQuest said that about 80 employees would lose their jobs at a major terminal in Shetland by the end of 2019.
The company yesterday claimed the move was “essential” to keep Sullom Voe Terminal “competitive” and help it retain and win new business.
It’s understood EnQuest is in talks with BP to preserve a key contract for exporting oil to the facility from the giant Clair field, west of Shetland.
A spokesman said EnQuest would offer voluntary redundancies in an effort to limit the number compulsory job losses required.
Trade union bosses said they were “dismayed and bemused” by the announcement and vowed to explore “every option” to protect their members.
London-listed EnQuest took over from BP as operator of the facility in December 2017.
The company managed to reduce operating costs by a 25% to £150 million last year.
But EnQuest needs to lower the bill further and today announced changes to “simplify the organisation” − and to employees’ terms and conditions.
Of the 80 employees expected to go, around 60 are full-time EnQuest staff members and the remaining 20 are contractors.
It means the total headcount at the plant will drop by about a fifth.
EnQuest’s spokesman said: “Since taking over operatorship of Sullom Voe Terminal, significant progress has been made at the terminal.
“We have been greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of the teams in terms of shaping the terminal’s future so that we are competitive, are best-placed to maximise the life of the terminal, and support the future of the North Sea.
“We appreciate this is difficult for all those impacted, and we will endeavour to make sure that these proposed changes are completed as smoothly and fairly as possible.”
Unite regional industrial officer John Clark said: “The sheer scale of the possible redundancies has taken everyone by surprise.
“To add insult to injury, EnQuest are also proposing to weaken the existing terms and conditions of the workforce.
“Unite will not stand idly by and allow jobs to be sacrificed to facilitate a competitive edge for other projects.
“We will explore every option including balloting our members for industrial action.”
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said: “While this news is not altogether unexpected, it is still disappointing. The unions and the company must now work together in the best interests of the workers, their families, and the community more widely. This process must be handled as sensitively as possible.
“As ever, my door is always open to anyone who has concerns, and they should have no hesitations in getting in touch with my office in Lerwick.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “This is very disappointing news and I hope that compulsory redundancies can be avoided as far as possible.
“Sullom Voe makes an invaluable contribution to Shetland’s oil and gas industry and it is very important that, whatever measures are taken, they help to secure the future of the facility.”