Agreement reached with oil industry employers in talks this evening has seen offshore union, RMT suspending a protest planned for tomorrow morning at the heliport of Super Puma operators, CHC.
The employers have agreed to meet the union’s core demand of guaranteed access to the offshore workforce on platforms and at heliports.
There will now be a rally at 11am tomorrow, 28th August, at RMT’s new Aberdeen HQ at 106 Crown Street, attended by families of victims of offshore safety failures, where the union will repeat calls for an improved safety regime.
General secretary Bob Crow says: ‘Following talks with the employers tonight we have secured a massive breakthrough on our core demand of workplace access which will enable us to build an organisation that can fight for real collective improvements to offshore working conditions including on the central issue of safety.
‘Tomorrow at 11am we will rally at our new Aberdeen HQ to start that fight for a new and safer future for the whole industry.’
Meanwhile the industry has serious concerns about continuity of production. The grounded Super Pumas amount to something like half of the helicopter fleet serving the North Sea platforms.
Alternative helicopters cannot be brought in just like that and it is hard to anticipate workers agreeing to get back on to the Super Pumas if they should be reintroduced without the hardest of evidence as to operational reliability.
A contributing factor to the current situation has been the industry and the helicopter service suppliers, content to rely on fixes.
When a gear problem was identified following previous downings, it had to be resolved by a fix. This is not unreasonable as a temporary measure as the design and production of new parts is not a quick process.
The ‘fix’ philosophy is currently to be seen in the problems experienced by the new Boing Dreamliners, in battery fires. The fix has been putting a box over the batteries in question, effectively fire buffering them.
With the Super Pumas, it is not clear whether new parts have actually been manufactured and introduced; or whether the fixes are still flying. If they are, they may well have had nothing to do with the recent tragedy off Shetland – but the philosophy of the long-stay fix has to be questioned where lives are involved – and lost.
RMT would be advised, with the new level of access it is being given, to acquire a monitoring role on such matters.