Why the oil workers fight for the union

Submitted by Janine on 1 October, 1990 - 5:26 Author: Claire Standring and Paul Hampton

Hull Trades Council has set an example with its solidarity work with the workers involved in the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee dispute.

The Trades Council Disputes Committee has been co-ordinating activity through its contacts in local trade union branches and Labour Party wards, setting up meetings, arranging speakers and raising money throughout Humberside.

On Thursday 20 September two OILC members, Mike Gibbons and Willi Stephenson were in Hull and reported on the latest developments.

Mike said: "I've been on the rigs since 1981, but was run off for two years early on for trade union activity.

"I was on the shop stewards committee on the 'Ten Hook' rig, and a founder of OILC in 1988. In April this year I was victimised and sacked again, but took the case to the Industrial Tribunal and won it.

"Then I was sacked again in August before the current round of action began."

Willi explained: "I got involved with the OILC after talking to Ronnie MacDonald and was elected last year as safety rep for the Brent Charlie and the Safe Gothia.

"Though I was due back on shore on 3 August, I stayed for 24 days until our solicitors advised us to stop the sit-in after Shell took us to the High Court. Despite the intimidation - ranging from threat of the SBS to cutting food to one meal a day - morale was kept up by our Entertainments Committee and by singing the Beatles' 'Help'.

"Some of the big companies are using young lads on YTS, to cut corners on pay and safety. They've even docked the £400 cost of their survival training from their wages.

"Last week a young bloke of 20 had his head ripped from his body by a 60 foot drill. Half an hour after his death a tannoy message went out calling for people to go back to work as normal."

Willi also explained the lengths Texaco went to surpress a study by Aberdeen University which found the average offshore worker to be a 'sensitive, opera and ballet loving type' in contrast to the 'macho' image often presented. That survey and others have revealed the extent of stress suffered by offshore workers on a two weeks on / two weeks off shift pattern.

Solidarity is vital in this dispute. Already trade unionists from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Holland have pledged their full support for the OILC. The conditions for Scandinavian workers are far better than on British rigs. The OILC Women's Support Groups have been involved in a series of occupations, set-ins and lobbies of the major oil companies and they have also been responsible for raising money for the hardship fund.

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