North Sea strike threat could shut down three platforms

June 29 (UPI) — A British trade union said three platforms in the British waters of the North Sea could stop production if labor strikes go ahead as planned next week.

Members of Unite, the largest labor union in the United Kingdom, backed a proposal to strike next month in a dispute over wages and hours with French supermajor Total. The group said it wasn’t getting enough compensation for the long hours spent offshore, which members said was disruptive to the balance between private lives and time on the job.

Wullie Wallace, a regional labor leader, said the amount of support from members over some sort of action against Total was indicative of the growing frustration among offshore workers.

“There is still time for industrial action to be avoided and Unite’s door remains open if Total is prepared to make a renewed offer and return to the negotiating table,” he said in a statement.

No formal start date for action was announced, though Unite said it could begin as early as next week. If they do strike, Unite said it would force the Alwin, Dunbar and Elgin platforms to stop production.

Total had no formal announcement on the labor dispute. Discovered in the 1970s, the French supermajor said production 30 years later from its North Sea assets has topped 1.2 billion barrels.

In response to questions from UPI, Deidre Michie, the chief executive at trade group Oil & Gas U.K. said a quick resolution to the dispute was favored over a strike.

“Industrial action is not helpful for our industry which is constantly competing with other oil and gas basins for investment that will stimulate new activity and help secure jobs for the long term,” she said.

After the British government awarded 123 licenses to 61 different companies in its 30th offshore licensing round last month, Michie said the areas in question should be pursued “with a sense of urgency” given the prospects for North Sea production declines beyond 2020.

The British continental shelf holds an estimated 1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in potentially commercial, but as yet undeveloped, reserves. A shut down of three platforms in the North Sea could add support for the price of Brent crude oil, which is already up 4.8 percent this week.

Total reported adjusted net income for the first quarter of $2.9 billion, a 13 percent improvement over the same period in 2017.