The majority of offshore workers in the North Sea would consider leaving the sector, a new report has found.
Poor job security was cited as the most pressing reason to quit the industry, after the collapse in oil prices from Covid-19 saw 43% of oil and gas workers furloughed or made redundant since March.
The report, carried out by climate groups Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace, found 81.7% of workers surveyed were open to leaving the industry, but lacked the government support to switch sectors.
One worker surveyed commented: “The way the industry is treating their workers, especially those in a situation similar to mine, is an absolute disgrace and should not be allowed to happen.”
Another added: “I know guys who have had two or three pay cuts over six months, no negotiations, nothing. If one engineering company cuts rates, all the others do too. I’ve honestly long suspected there is a cartel around this.”
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More than half of the 1,383 workers surveyed – representing 4.5% of the offshore workforce – said they would be interested in working in renewables and offshore wind.
Another respondent, ‘Steve,’ 43, contrasted the experience of decline in oil and gas with the prospect of working towards Scotland’s 2045 net-zero target.
“It’s always boom and bust to some degree but the last five years have not been a pleasant environment to work in – that’s five years of mental toil,” he said. “To be in an industry that’s growing, versus one that’s declining, that’s really what it’s all about to me.”
Working towards net-zero “would be an achievement in my working life and mean a lot to me,” he added.
Despite workers’ openness to change, the survey revealed that 91% of respondents had never heard of a ‘just transition’ – two years after a taskforce was launched with the purpose of advising the Scottish Government on how to achieve just that.
A number of workers signalled concern that clear pathways into offshore wind, where their skills could be easily redeployed, were needlessly complex. The report identifies a chokepoint between the two sectors resulting from limited access to funds for retraining, and ‘exploitative’ certification regimes that place a significant financial burden on individual workers.
With decommissioning work now under-regulated and often outscored, many of the North Sea’s ageing workforce do not have the chance to work on installations from ‘cradle to grave’.
The findings suggest the Scottish government is still failing to match its bold words on a just transition with concrete action, campaigners say.
Ryan Morrison, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, called for a systemic change that places workers at the heart of shaping transition policy.
“Despite all the talk, we are yet to see the Scottish or UK Government get to grips with the scale of the challenge of a transition to renewables. Industry has failed to deliver for their workers or the climate and they cannot be relied upon to suddenly change course.
“The rhetoric of a just transition means nothing if impacted workers are not at the heart of shaping policies that affect their livelihoods and communities. It is the only means to ensure no harm to communities currently dependent on high-carbon industries.”
Responding to the report, Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said:
“We have consistently argued that the market alone cannot guarantee that any transition is just. Neither government has yet made the necessary commitments on investment, which should be conditional on creating good jobs, or indeed on public ownership which is vital.”
“However, we believe that as the Covid crisis continues and as the climate crisis becomes daily more acute, governments will come under increasing pressure from workers and the wider public to step up to the plate.”
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