MORE than 1000 offshore oil and gas workers in Scotland are calling on the Scottish Government to plan a just transition away from fossil fuels to protect jobs, communities and the climate. 

The workers are backed by climate groups Platform, Uplift and Friends of the Earth Scotland, as well as unions including the RMT, GMB, and Unite, who are currently balloting workers for potential industrial action in the coming weeks.  

The report entitled "Our Power: offshore workers demands for a just energy transition" gathers demands, costed proposals and case studies that show how offshore oil and gas workers can lead a just energy transition, and why they must.

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Campaigners are urging Scottish ministers to “pick up these demands and run with them” to help protect workers and communities currently dependent on the oil and gas industry. 

The publication follows two years of workshops and research with people who work in the offshore oil and gas industry and are published as the Government is consulting on their first Just Transition Plan for the energy sector.

Each of the 10 demands has a specific request of the Scottish Government which considers its powers as part of the UK.

Published by Platform and Friends of the Earth Scotland, the demands include:

  • investment in renewables manufacturing hubs
  • an offshore training passport to help workers to retrain in the renewables sector
  • polluting companies to pay for the decommissioning of oil rigs
  • a permanent Energy Excess Profits Tax
  • a sovereign wealth fund 
  • public ownership of energy companies

Despite commitments by the Scottish Government to co-design their Just Transition Plan, direct involvement of oil and gas workers has been limited to an online survey so far.

This led the chair of the Just Transition Commission to write to Richard Lochhead, minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, about the group's “deep concern” after the government failed to consult with them on the plan.

Surveyed workers in the report demand fair pay and protections across the sector, arguing that Scotland cannot model offshore wind in the broken image of the oil industry.

Research included in the report found salary thresholds set by UK Government immigration rules have been waived for the offshore wind sector for the past five years. On SSE’s Beatrice wind farm off the Scottish coast, for example, crew were paid less than £5 per hour while working 12-hour days, seven days a week.   

The report also found that whistleblowing protections do not apply to self-employed workers.

Mark*, a rigging supervisor who has worked offshore for twenty years, described declining pay and the need for a government-backed jobs guarantee.

He said: “When I was working on the River Tyne, I spoke to a guy who had worked in the oil and gas industry for 40 years. He asked me where I got my survival suit, because he wanted one for the winter. Not to go out anywhere or for work, but to sit inside at home. He couldn’t afford his gas and electric over the winter.

"To have someone who has worked their whole lives in the industry asking me a question like that, I felt like crying.”

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The report further outlined that the UKs current energy system results in 73% of oil and gas companies investing nothing in renewable energy production as well as taking home the highest proportion of revenue in any country due to low taxation.

In 2019 for example, the UK Government took less than a tenth of what the Norwegian Government took in taxes per barrel of oil.

Julie*, who works as a Heli Admin in Aberdeen, described why she supports public ownership of energy.

She said: “Public ownership would mean decent contracts, permanent work and that workers would be treated with respect. It’s less of a danger to our working environment than having someone who is cowed, stressed or worried about their livelihoods.

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“If you look at places like Norway, the attitude of the Norwegians is so different to the attitude in Britain. They own stakes, own rigs themselves. It gives them a greater responsibility. It would be ours, we’d be part of the big machine, we own it, we run it and it's for us.”

The Scottish Government is currently asking for the public’s view on its Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan where it spells out its plan to meet Scotland’s energy needs in the coming decades. 

As part of this, the Scottish Government has said they will end their support for drilling every last drop of oil, along with consulting on whether there should be a presumption against exploring for new oil and gas and limits on existing fields.

*Some names have been changed for privacy