CAMPAIGNERS have “hijacked” a series of corporate advertisement spaces in Aberdeen with posters taking aim at oil companies for “exploiting workers” while seeing profits soar.

A group involved in the “Brandalism” network put up the adverts across bus stop and billboard spaces in the granite city without permission ahead of Offshore Energy UK’s North Sea Transition Deal conference, due to be held on Tuesday.

Activists criticised firms including BP and Shell for employing workers on “ad-hoc contracts” and laying off staff during downturns in the oil market.

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According to a 2021 survey of 610 offshore workers, carried out by Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace, found that nearly three-quarters of workers were employed as ah-hoc contractors.

The billboard stunt comes after Energy Voice reported that workers on BP and Harbour Energy rigs in the North Sea downed tools last week in an effort to improve pay.

The unofficial strike among workers employed by subcontractor Bilfinger spread across 16 installations in an effort to raise hourly rates by £7.

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Offshore Energy UK’s energy services agreement manager said that “wildcat action” of this nature is in “no-one’s interest”.

Meanwhile MSPs including Labour’s Mercedes Villalba and GreensMaggie Chapman showed solidarity with the workers involved.

While the artworks installed in Aberdeen focus on working conditions and soaring profits, they also aim to highlight the need for a “just transition” to net zero.

The International Energy Agency has said that if net-zero targets are to be reached, the exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must come to an end immediately.

One poster, designed by artist Lindsay Grimes, takes aim at Shell and reads: “At Shell, we’re squeezing our workforce for every last drop of North Sea oil.”

Another focuses on BP and reads: “For us, energy transition means making billions in profit while selling out our workers.”

Tona Merriman from the Brandalism network said a just transition to clean energy requires phasing out oil and gas while giving more power to workers and communities. “It is clear that Shell and BP plan to do neither,” she said.

“Aberdeen has long been referred to as the oil and gas capital of Europe, with the city saturated by adverts from oil companies boasting their green credentials through the language of just transition, whilst behind the scenes they continue to exploit our natural resources and their workers for profit,” she went on.

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“Workers have the skills and expertise to lead the energy transition, while BP and Shell’s bottom line is their profits. Offshore workers have already made demands for green jobs and an Offshore Training Passport that remain unactioned. We are calling for a just transition for oil workers that puts employees, communities and the climate before profit.”

A spokesperson for Shell responded to the billboards saying: “We welcome constructive engagement on our strategy and the energy transition. We agree that society needs to take urgent action on climate change.

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“Shell has clear target to become a net-zero emissions business by 2050. We are also deeply committed to the UK and are planning to invest between £20-25 billion in the UK energy system over the next decade - more than 75% of this will be in low and zero-carbon products and services, including offshore wind, hydrogen and electric mobility.”

BP has recently seen its profits more than double following the surge in oil and gas prices – reporting an underlying profit of £4.9 billion for the first three months of the year.

Meanwhile, fellow energy giant Shell saw its highest ever quarterly profits during the same period – making £7.3bn – nearly triple the amount from the first three months of 2021.

A BP spokesperson said: “We arrived at our net-zero ambition and strategy through constructive dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, including many challenging voices. We know not everyone supports our plans and want to see change now, but we’re already in action, transforming our company to help make the energy transition a reality.

“BP is investing in the UK – we intend to invest up to £18 billion in the UK by 2030, with the majority going to low carbon businesses. This includes developing offshore wind in the North Sea off Aberdeen, making Aberdeen our global centre of excellence for offshore wind, and working with Aberdeen City Council to develop a city hydrogen hub.

“As part of these developments, BP will invest in infrastructure – in ports, harbours and ships, supporting hundreds of jobs. We will also invest in training to support both the reskilling of experienced workers and creating entry-level energy transition roles.“