CURRENT NEWS – BLACKLISTING: As could be expected, Shell was a pioneer in this evil, sinister and totally unethical conduct, detailed in an article we published 2 years ago: “Shell’s North Sea history of safety violations, blackmail and blacklisting.”
By John Donovan
“At last the scandal of the illegal blacklisting of so-called troublesome workers in the building industry is getting the attention it deserves.”
(extract from Daily Mirror article published 24 Jan 2013)
“There should be a full inquiry into allegations of “shameful and insidious” blacklisting of workers on projects such as Crossrail and the Olympics. Labour’s Michael Meacher said blacklisting was the “worst human rights breach in the UK since the war”. During the Labour-led debate, Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said what had happened was “nothing short than a national scandal” and workers deserved honesty.”
(Extracts from BBC News article 23 Jan 2013)
The blacklisting scandal was debated yesterday in the House of Commons amid calls for a full investigation and inquiry.
As could be expected, Shell was a pioneer in this evil, sinister and totally unethical conduct, detailed in an article we published 2 years ago: “Shell’s North Sea history of safety violations, blackmail and blacklisting.”
A book first published in 1996, “PAYING FOR THE PIPER”, provided the relevant evidence. The book reported on the industrial relations crisis which erupted after the world’s worst offshore disaster in which 167 oil workers died on 6 July 1988 in an explosion and fire on the Piper Alpha North Sea oil production platform, operated by Occidental Petroleum.
From page 438
The stick was the weapon that the employers had always used, fear, in particular of blacklisting and the threat of unemployment. On Mobil’s Beryl Alpha, overtime working was again compulsory, while the company had threatened a downmanning if the workforce failed to cooperate in meeting overtime requirements.2 This kind of pressure was crucial in repressing the remaining militancy as 1990 drew to a close. Those workers who now worked offshore knew full well that hundreds of their colleagues remained stranded ‘on the beach’ with no immediate prospect of reinstatement. It was a salutary reminder of where the ultimate balance of power in the industry lay. Shell’s OPRIS bar remained in place for those who had taken action in the East Shetland Basin, although some had managed to trickle back offshore, working for other contractors elsewhere in the North Sea. But not only construction workers had to pay the price for activism. One hundred and seven catering workers were blacklisted by Shell and effectively prevented from re-employment in any other part of the North Sea. Shell had commented that it ‘did not see why other operators should be obliged to import problems onto their platforms:3
From pages 442 & 443
The only glimmer of optimism for the offshore workforce was the announcement by Shell of a ‘goodwill gesture’. The ‘temporary OPRIS bar’, the offshore blacklist, would be lifted by the company from 1 January 1991. For those languishing onshore, it meant that a four-month punishment period of unemployment now had an end in sight. Shell’s action was part of the employers’ attempt to build on the post-Cullen optimism that a ‘new era’ was about to begin in the North Sea. More immediately, a number of Opposition MPs had taken every opportunity to remind the government that the plight of the dismissed workforce remained an obstacle to any new beginning off-shore. At a private meeting with Colin Moynihan MP, who had now replaced Morrison as the Minister responsible for oil, Ronnie McDonald had reiterated the need for Shell’s blacklist to be rescinded before any progress could be made towards restoring industrial peace offshore.
Meanwhile, despite Shell’s ‘no victimization’ announcement, two vocal safety representatives on the Brent Bravo, one of them, Jake Boyle, a prominent OILC activist, were soon to be inexplicably ‘down-manned’.