Trade association Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) has criticised a report on offshore worker satisfaction prepared by environmental campaign groups. The study asked workers on their experiences of the oil and gas industry throughout 2020, and their willingness to switch careers to renewable energy.

The report on offshore labour, released Tuesday, came from environmental campaign groups Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Scotland, and Platform. Surveying 1,383 UK North Sea offshore workers in a variety of roles, the report showed a large dissatisfaction among workers, inflamed by the events of 2020

Of the respondents, 43% have taken furlough or received redundancy since March. Notably, 82% of those surveyed would consider leaving oil and gas for a new sector, with only 7% firmly saying they would not.

Over the past year, oil and gas workers have faced more threats to their job security than ever before. Covid-19 has limited companies’ ability to deploy staff and the oil trade war, combined with the following downturn, has led to massive cutbacks. As a result, large companies have made significant redundancies in order to cut costs and ensure smooth operations.

The survey asked respondents to rank what they would seek in a job outside of oil and gas, with 58% of respondents placing job security as their top concern.

In their suggestions, the report’s authors said that the skills of oil and gas workers would be “essential to deliver an equitable and rapid transition to renewable energy”. In order to improve morale in the industry, it suggested strengthening job security via creating jobs guarantees, strengthening employment rights, and repealing anti-trade union legislation.

It also suggested lowering the sector’s barrier to entry, standardising offshore certification, and prioritising offshore wind’s use of seabed.

OGUK calls survey ‘misleading’: “We need to work together”

However, OGUK said that the report painted a ‘misleading’ picture, and did not ‘meaningfully engage’ with the industry. A statement by the association said that the campaign groups had not consulted with companies in drawing their conclusions.

OGUK chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “At a time when all industries are navigating unprecedented financial pressures, it is disheartening that some campaign groups are painting a misleading picture to suit a particular agenda, when in fact we could be much more effective if we work together to embrace the net-zero opportunity. A huge proportion of companies in our industry have been supporting projects across the full energy spectrum including in renewables for years.

“This won’t help deliver what our energy communities badly need, which is a joined-up, fair, and inclusive transition that harnesses the essential expertise in our country’s oil and gas industry.”

The trade association highlighted the Dolphyn Project as an example of green investment spurred by the offshore industry. The project, launched in Aberdeen this week, aims to build the world’s first floating green hydrogen production facility.

Michie continued: “While this report confirms how much people working in our industry care about securing a fair transition, we’re also not aware of any approach from the report authors for feedback from the wider workforce and the industry on their findings.

“Throughout 2019, we spoke to workers, trade bodies, and unions to create our Roadmap 2035. We’re already seeing some of the actions from the Roadmap come through, with new training certificates being launched this week to support the requirements of a net-zero economy.

“We need to work together and listen to everyone in our industry as we make our positive vision for the future into a reality.”

Offshore workers’ union call on government to ease career transitions

Responding to OGUK’s statement, Platform’s just transition lead campaigner Gabrielle Jeliazkov said: “It’s disheartening that OGUK – the industry lobby group – responds to workers reporting low morale and years of job insecurity by hitting back at those amplifying their voices.

“We are simply reporting what 1,383 workers have told us – that there is nowhere near enough government training and support, and that their expertise should inform policy on renewable energy transition.”

The majority of workers surveyed were part of the Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). General secretary of the union Mick Cash said: “RMT welcomes this important report, which captures the precarious position of offshore oil and gas workers after years of government neglect and the ongoing failure to deal with the impact of coronavirus.

“The skills and expertise of offshore oil and gas workers are key to a just transition. Yet the testimony of RMT members and their colleagues lays bare the fact that chronic job insecurity in offshore oil and gas is not being alleviated by clear pathways to employment in growth areas like decommissioning, renewables, and decarbonisation, despite this being central to a just transition.

“We can and must cut carbon emissions and build renewable energy production capacity without destroying livelihoods in this country. This report is a strong reminder to the UK Government that the forthcoming oil and gas industrial strategy must give a green light to a just transition, which requires oil and gas majors on the UKCS like BP, Total, and Shell to participate.”