A leading union has appealed to the Scottish Government over the introduction of mandatory vaccinations by a North Sea operator.
Unite has urged ministers to intervene in response to the “draconian” measures rolled out by Canadian firm CNR International.
It is thought the company is the first UK operator to introduce a requirement for offshore employees to have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
As of Friday, when the policy came into force, CNR does not allow anybody to mobilise onto its offshore platforms unless they have been jabbed, the union said.
In the UK North Sea the Calgary-headquartered company operates the Ninian Central, Ninian South and Tiffany installations.
Extended to contractors
According to Unite, the company has also informed contractors working on these platforms that no worker is to return unless they are vaccinated.
It means workers employed by Petrofac, Aker Solutions, EnerMech, Bilfinger and Global E&C could all be impacted by the rules.
Trade body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) is encouraging workers to get the Covid-19 jab but hasn’t backed mandatory enforcement.
Unite ‘will not hesitate’ to challenge employers
Unite has pledged to take legal action against any company pursuing a ‘job or job’ policy.
John Boland, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite has now taken the step to demand intervention and support by the Scottish Government over CNR’s draconian measures. Our position is that we support workers getting the Covid-19 vaccination but we are strenuously opposed to any mandatory vaccination policy.
“Instead, education and communication should be used to encourage people to get the vaccine instead of workers in essence being told it’s a jab or your job. This position is supported by Oil and Gas UK, and to our knowledge no other operator or contractor has enforced such a policy.”
“We will not hesitate to challenge any employer including CNR that disciplines or dismisses our members for exercising their right not to be vaccinated including the consideration of legal action.”
It was first announced back in October that CNR was planning to impose a mandatory vaccination policy for workers.
At the time the operator said the decision was taken to “protect those at our worksites”, but that exemptions would be allowed on medical or religious grounds.
Leading employment experts predicted that the move would “inevitably” expose CNR to “legal risks” and could be tough to enforce.
While CNR may be flying the lone flag for mandates in the UK North Sea as it stands, Aker BP has enacted a similar policy in Norway.
There the move was also met with opposition, with offshore union Industri Energi branding it “intrusive” and “unsustainable”.
A spokesman for CNR said: “CNR International has implemented extensive measures to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19 in our operations, including a vaccination policy.
“Our decisions are made with the health and safety of all company staff and individuals working with CNR International in mind. We have been liaising closely with contracting companies to encourage their offshore employees not yet vaccinated to join the majority of the offshore crew who are.
“This includes providing access to medical professionals, help in addressing any concerns or logistical barriers to vaccination, and granting exceptions, where appropriate. To date, the response to this approach has been positive, with a significant majority of our offshore workforce now vaccinated.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Vaccination remains critical in the fight against COVID-19 and while the Scottish Government strongly recommends that individuals get vaccinated, it is not mandatory and remains a personal choice whether to do so.
“Each employer will need to consider their own specific circumstances and make sure their approach is consistent with their obligations and relevant legislation.
“Our advice is that employers maintain a voluntary approach and encourage vaccination. Employment law is a reserved matter and the Scottish Government has no direct power to intervene in contractual issues between companies and their employees.”
EnerMech was uncontactable for comment.
Petrofac, Aker Solutions, Bilfinger and Global E&C were all been contacted for comment.