Offshore workers claim Unite breached rules with OCA ballot

Offshore workers
PLENTY IN RESERVE: Oil workers should be busy over the next 40 years

A group of oil workers has written to the UK Government claiming the Unite union allowed ineligible members to vote in the recent OCA ballot.

It is understood around 20 complaints have so far been sent to the office of the Certification Officer in London, which is responsible for overseeing the conduct of trade unions and ensuring correct procedures are followed.

The workers claim unemployed union members and non-OCA member employees were allowed to take part in last Friday’s ballot which saw offshore workers agree by 477 to 471 votes to accept an offer of revised pay and conditions. It is not known how many votes are alleged to have been ineligible from approximately 1,000 ballots received.

The basis of the complaint is that Unite failed in its statutory requirement by allowing unemployed and non OCA members to vote. They objectors have asked the Certification Officer to investigate.

Friday’s agreement ended a year-long industrial relations struggle which began when the Offshore Contractors Association’s (OCA) announced plans to change terms and conditions and job reductions without consultation and introduce three on-three off rotations.

OCA chief executive Bill Murray said the vote in favour would allow both companies and staff members to move forward amid challenging times.

Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell said he was “100%” confident the ballot had conducted correctly.

“We did everything possible to ensure this ballot was done as correctly as possible.”

Assistant Certification Officer Gerrard Walker said: “We have received information relating to the OCA ballot and we will be making further inquiries from those people who have contacted us.”

However, Walker said legislation specifically precludes the Certification Officer from dealing with issues relating to industrial action.

“The Certification Officer has power to determine complaints that union has breached its own rules but cannot intervene in relation to a strike ballot. We are very much in the preliminary stage and will be seeking more information from the people who contacted us.”

Unite’s Campbell said: “I have not received any complaints from members receiving a ballot who should not have done. This ballot was conducted electronically. All those who were entitled to vote were allowed to vote.

“Should the Certification Officer carry out any investigation we are confident he will find nothing untoward with the ballot at all.”

“We scrutinised the membership base and members were written to ask whether they were still working in the industry and who their employers were.”