Oil workers press for holiday pay

21-03-2005

Hundreds of North Sea oil workers are to take complaints over their holidays entitlement to employment tribunal.

The offshore workers want to secure four weeks leave a year which they say they are currently being denied.

The Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC) union said its members will press ahead despite government calls for them to abandon their plans.

So far, 236 workers have filed cases in Aberdeen under the European Union Working Time Directive.

However, about 5,000 contractors have received rejections following requests for time off and as many as 20,000 workers represented by five unions are looking to have the situation resolved.

Oil rig workers were supposed to have been covered by the regulations from 1 August, 2003, but the government and unions disagreed over a key measure of the directive - an entitlement to four weeks holiday.

The workers typically work 26 weeks offshore and then have 26 weeks onshore, as compensatory rest which for many oil workers is unpaid.

The government wants two weeks of the new holiday entitlement to be discounted from the 26 weeks compensatory rest period but the workers believe nothing should be taken under the working time provisions.

Westminster's Employment Relations Minister Gerry Sutcliffe attempted to quell the dispute on Monday, asking contractors to drop their cases and begin negotiations to find a compromise instead.

However, the OILC has refused to talk and said the tribunals would go ahead unless Mr Sutcliffe climbed down.

Conflict resolution

Mr Sutcliffe said: "The working time regulations, as amended in 2003, apply to offshore workers in territorial waters and on the UK continental shelf, including an entitlement to paid annual leave.

"I regret that even with the involvement of Acas, the industry and trades unions have not been able to reach a consensus on the issue of paid leave.

"However, I strongly believe that the solution lies in constructive dialogue."

Jake Molloy, of the OILC, believes the minister is heading up a blind alley and said: "If he thinks he is going to be able to negotiate some kind of settlement then he will be disappointed because these tribunals will go ahead.

"On the other hand, if he wants to admit that there has been some mistake, and we secure four weeks for the offshore workers, then the tribunal cases will fall.

"We need some kind of ruling in legal statute so offshore workers can be given the same rights as onshore workers."

BBC News

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