French oil and gas giant Total says it is increasing security in northwestern Scotland after disputes with staff over pay and hours, which resulted in a vote in favour of strike action.
A week of industrial agitation followed concerns about a wage review, plans to change shift patterns and anger over Total’s decision to hold a barbecue amid ongoing redundancies.
A Total spokesman said the firm prided itself on good relations with staff and was working hard to find a “mutually agreeable solution to the dispute”, adding that the barbecue had been arranged to thank employees for their hard work during a “very busy recent period”.
Total told staff it would introduce “security measures” at its headquarters in Westhill and sites in Aberdeen, its Shetland gas refinery and its warehouses and docks to “ensure any potential protest remains peaceful”.
Employees at the Shetland Gas Plant and three of Total’s North Sea oil rigs have voted in favour of taking industrial action over the rota proposals.
A trade union representative on Friday said the decision was “ridiculous” and “disrespectful” to employees.
A boss at the union Unite, John Boland, said: “It seems like they’re expecting us to storm the buildings or something. We haven’t even put in the industrial-action notices yet.
“This seems to be an overreaction by Total.
“Between this and the barbecue announcement the other day, they really seem all over the place.
Boland added: “As of now we have got no protest planned at Total facilities.
“Certainly, if we did have any protests planned, we would go through the normal procedures such as informing the police.
“The last thing we would do is put anybody at risk.
“Again, I think it’s a bit disrespectful. It’s maybe the French way of doing things, I don’t know.”
Total was unavailable for comment on the union leader’s allegations.
It reportedly wants to change schedules from two weeks on, three weeks off, to three on, three off.
A recent study by Robert Gordon University suggested staff on 3:3 schedules were nearly twice as likely to experience ill health as those working 2:2.
The French firm is also making around 300 onshore staff redundant as part of the process of integrating Maersk Oil, which it recently acquired.
The takeover means Total has a number of different rotas across its sites and it apparently wants to introduce a uniform system.
Total’s new manager in the UK, Jean-Luc Guiziou, is being blamed for an alleged attempt to force through changes to wages and working hours.
Total recently acquired Maersk. Picture credit: Wikimedia