North Sea businesses under threat from working time laws

25-08-2006

Changes to the EU working hours directive could jeopardise the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry, an industry body has warned.

The UK Offshore Operators' Association (UKOOA) made the statement after the government said it agreed to review exemptions to the working time directive.

From October, all offshore workers working on installations on the continental shelf will be covered by the changes, not just to the 12-mile territorial limit, according to employment relations minister Jim Fitzpatrick.

The UKOOA said the amendment would mean all time offshore will be treated as working time, thereby restricting staff to working just eight days a month, instead of a fortnight on and off.

It warns 20,000 additional staff will have to be recruited to make up the shortfall, a recruitment gap that would be impossible to fill.

Offshore oil and gas firms have warned the changes could lead to job losses and closures.

But union Amicus said it was right that firms should pay their workers their full paid holiday entitlement.

The union said employees of rich oil firms should be entitled to four weeks paid annual leave, just like their counterparts on UK land.

Amicus' national officer for the offshore industry, Alan Harvey, said: "We welcome this latest commitment from the employment relations minister but regret that it has taken over three years to get it.

"This will finally put an end to the disgraceful behaviour of offshore employers who have denied our members their basic right to paid annual leave."

The employment appeal tribunal will take place in Edinburgh in October.



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