Redundancy proposals by the PBS contractor consortium on TotalEnergies’ North Sea assets have sparked “serious concern” amid a growing backlog of delayed maintenance work.
A joint statement from the Unite, RMT and GMB unions slammed the proposals, which the unions claim would see headcount cut by 10% across several installations and maintenance work cut 21%.
It comes two weeks after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued an improvement notice on TotalEnergies’ Gryphon Alpha FPSO, showing “safety and environmental-critical” backlog maintenance increased from 7,000 man-hours in October 2020, to more than 11,000 man-hours in September 2021.
PBS, which employs more than 600 people across TotalEnergies’ UK portfolio, confirmed it had launched a redundancy consultation, but hoped to mitigate cuts and that those required would be on a voluntary basis.
It added that a dedicated team had been put together to deal with the Gryphon backlog and that staffing would take into account requirements on an “asset by asset basis”.
However the trio of trade unions said in a statement they “fail to see how the figures released on cuts can be considered compatible” with the recent safety notice and called on the HSE to intervene.
They added: “The notice indicates that TotalEnergies has failed to make arrangements for the effective organisation, control and monitoring of protective measures to avoid the risks associated with increasing backlogs of maintenance.”
“In light of this damning report the trade unions will be calling on the HSE to intervene and assess the proposals for significant reductions to manpower and maintenance routines.”
TotalEnergies said the operator would not compromise on its “core value” of safety and would be monitoring the PBS redundancy consultation.
HSE said it had recently intervened with TotalEnergies, with inspectors requiring action over management of maintenance.
The regulator added that it had spoken to several offshore operators about backlogged maintenance “of significance”, some being a result of Covid-19.
A spokesperson said: “HSE routinely inspects the effectiveness and risks related to operators’ maintenance and inspection programmes, particularly in relation to safety and environmental critical systems.
“Important within this is the availability of sufficient numbers of competent personnel to undertake the work. HSE inspectors take regulatory enforcement action over maintenance management issues when it is appropriate to do so under the HSE Enforcement Policy Statement and HSE’s published offshore statistics and enforcement databases provide a record of this. Furthermore, HSE actively engages on an ongoing basis with industry leadership and stakeholder groups, including Oil and Gas UK, to highlight improvements that industry needs to make over performance in this area.”
The PBS consortium, comprised of Ponticelli UK, Semco Maritime and Brand Energy & Infrastructure Services UK, took over the TotalEnergies contract in Q2 2020.
It covers the Alisa FSO, Culzean, Dunbar, Elgin Franklin, Gryphon FPSO, North Alwyn and the Shetland Gas Plant.
At the time, RMT said the award “set alarm bells ringing” as the new firm had beaten more established players to the lucrative contract.
Unite is currently balloting 300 Ponticelli and Semco Maritime workers on industrial action over changes to terms and conditions.
The Gryphon Alpha FPSO serves the Gryphon field, around 200 miles north east of Aberdeen, as well as subsea tiebacks from the Tullich, Maclure and Ballindalloch developments.
TotalEnergies holds an 86.5% operating interest in the asset, with Sojitz Energy Development Limited (13.5%).