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Aberdeen Press & Journal: SHELL STAFF SAY ASSET TRANSFER WILL COST THEM THOUSANDS

08:50 – 24 October 2007

A dispute has broken out between an oil major and 200 of its North Sea staff about the impact a change of employer will have on the finances of the workers.

The Shell staff on five platforms being sold claim that many will lose out on tens of thousands of pounds from their retirement packages by transferring to a new owner.

The oil group has responded by saying that employees’ terms and conditions will be protected, while it will also fund “substantial” transfer and transition bonuses.

The 200 workers are on the Cormorant Alpha, North Cormorant, Eider Alpha, Dunlin Alpha and Tern Alpha have today issued a statement to the press on a variety of issues.

They denied they were being greedy financially and were only attempting to protect their final salary and pension schemes.

The employees also alleged that Shell had failed to invest in the five platforms for far too long and that the installations were “haemorrhaging” people.

The staff involved are currently using Shell’s internal grievance procedure as regards future employment options being offered by the company.

Previously, the company’s employees in similar situations have had a variety of choices, including voluntary severance, but in this case are only being offering the option of transferring to the new owner.

The workers’ statement said: “It has been implied that we are being unreasonable, even greedy.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth. We simply seek to be treated as all other Shell staff have been treated for over a decade and are trying to protect our final salary and pension schemes.

“The majority of long-term Shell staff face a shortfall of tens of thousands of pounds from what they had anticipated receiving as their retirement package.”

Referring to a lack of investment in the platforms, they added: “We have assisted Shell in trying to make these platforms a safer place; however, this programme of integrity improvement in our opinion has not been completed.”

The workers also alleged that many staff had felt completely let down and stressed and were leaving.

They added in the statement: “This will also lead to a vicious circle of losing competent people and putting additional workloads and safety critical roles on to the remaining staff.

“This will inevitably cause any buyer a major headache as they will be short of competent people and will lose a wealth of knowledge and experience, something that cannot be bought, thus potentially compromising safety further.”

Shell admitted last night that, since the announcement of the intended divestments, it had seen an increase in resignations, as would be expected during any period of significant change.

But a spokeswoman denied there had been a “haemorrhaging” of people.

Shell added: “Safety is our first, our highest priority.

“We will not compromise safety for production. We acknowledge that times of change are stressful to staff and we have put extra measures in place on platforms being divested to take this into account.”

The company said it continued to invest in the integrity of its assets in the North Sea, including the platforms being sold.

In September, union bosses demanded a Health and Safety Executive inquiry into Shell’s North Sea operations.

Graham Tran, regional officer with the Unite union’s Amicus section, and the OILC’s Jake Molloy, alleged there were gaps in “safety-critical positions” on the Shell installations up for sale.

A top Shell boss in Aberdeen responded at the time by saying it was “ludicrous” to think that the company was not interested in safety.

John Gallagher, vice-president technical for exploration and production in Europe, denied the allegations, adding: “Safety-critical positions are covered on these installations.”

The five platforms are among assets in line to be sold over the next 18 months.

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