'We are the organised rank and file'

Submitted by Janine on 23 August, 1990 - 9:31 Author: Ronnie McDonald of the Oil Industry Liaison Committee

Ronnie McDonald of the Oil Industry Liaison Committee describes the state of the action in the North Sea.

Planning has been key to these strikes. Obviously the very nature of the business is that the men are isolated out there on plaforms; then they come ashore, and scatter to the four winds.

So that's the problem we had to tackle and we did that by regular mass meetings throughout the country with a growing schedule over the winter: Glasgow, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Aberdeen, Dundee, occasionally in Liverpool. But the meetings have been the key.

Then we had to look at the legal situation and put together a set of tactics that would be effective and sustainable. Hence the offshore sit-in. And there's no doubt in my mind that that's delivered. The tactics are sound and effective.

There are similarities between us and the Tube workers last year as far as the trade union laws are concerned. We did it last year simultaneously with the Tube drivers, by the way, but we didn't get any publicity. We've always said we'll never get anywhere in the North Sea until we affect the interests of the Home Counties middle classes. And we are on the verge of actually doing that at this minute.

We've no constitution and no rule book. We've no membership rule. The OILC standing committee is made up of the offshore workers who want to progress this fight and are committed to actually doing something practical. Some are shop stewards, some are spokesmen, some are not, but they are all active. We've a completely ad hoc organisation and have no bureaucracy - it's as simple as that.

Communications during the strike are very important. A member of the committee created the Blow Out newspaper, and I think that's one of the most significant things to come out of this struggle.

We issue hand-outs and information to keep the men informed of what we're doing.

We get a lot of harassment from management. SEDCO, for instance, have banned our publications on their rigs.

We've had support from other workers: token industrial action from men at Davey of Dundee, St Fergus gas terminal, the lads in two major contracts on the Clyde at Coulport and Faslane. We've had faxes of support expressing solidarity from Norway, Sweden, Holland, Trinidad. It's been very, very encouraging.

The local councillors, trades council and MPs should be commended on their support.

Obviously there's got to be complete re-rigging of the whole trade union laws. I think we should go down the European road of clearly spelling out rights at work. A positive set of rights.

The purpose of this dispute is to deal the official union a hand at the table and we feel that we've come pretty far down that road and have given them a bargaining position. And there comes a time when we will have to hand the baton over to them.

But there's no way the OILC will ever be out of the frame. We are, after all, the organised rank and file offshore from members of all the unions. So we can make sure all our demands are met.