At the same time as making some workers redundant, oil and gas companies have continued to operate rigs on a three weeks on three weeks off pattern. In ‘No Market Solution’, posted on this blog yesterday, Neil Rothnie asks a critical question about the safety of the workforce. He queries whether at a time of global oil glut this is really essential work and whether it can possibly be safe
Who knows how effective this [testing] is, or whether the infection is spiraling offshore only to come home with these guys at the end of their trip? Are all the companies quarantining all outward and inward bound workers? Are they testing everyone every day? Otherwise what possible precautions could be put in place to get workers offshore via helicopter to work eat and sleep (sometimes in shared cabins) cheek by jowl in an atmosphere of endlessly recycled air?
One of the tragic lessons we’ve learnt from Covid-19 is that concentrations of people in enclosed environments are horribly vulnerable to a highly infectious virus. Too late in the day the consequences of not protecting elderly and vulnerable people and care workers living and working in care homes have come to the fore in public debate. After initial publicity the plight of 100,000 workers who are still trapped on cruise ships around the world has been largely ignored. According to the Guardian newspaper at least fifty of the ships have Covid-19 infections spreading onboard while the workers are shut out of ports and unable to return to their homes.
In this context we need a public debate and rapid action to protect the lives of the North Sea workforce. It’s clear that the industry is not putting safety first – at a time of crisis they are making the workforce pay the price through redundancies and unacceptable risks to their lives, while at the same time continuing to pay out massive dividends to share holders.
Protect the workers now
Shut down offshore production and development until there is a clear case that it’s safe to resume. Ensure that livelihoods are protected.
Protect the workers in the future
Organise for a rapid, planned just transition out of hydrocarbons and into a new sustainable economy.