A strike by some workers on Norway’s offshore oil and gas platforms expanded on Monday, prompting state oil company Equinor to start shutting down production on four fields that it operates on the Norwegian continental shelf. Two more platforms are also affected, cutting Norway’s production of oil equivalents by around 8 percent and pumping less oil revenue into the state treasury.
Equinor began what it called a “controlled closure” of the platforms Gudrun, Gina Krog, Kvitebjørn and Valemon shortly after midnight. They collectively produce the equivalent of more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day. An Equinor spokesman said that most all of the production is in the form of gas.
Employers’ organization Norsk olje og gass (Norog) reported that two other fields and their platforms were also shutting down: Gjøa, operated by Neptune Energy, and Vega, operated by Wintershall Dea. That takes another 130,000 barrels of oil equivalents a day out of production.
An Equinor spokesman told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that its new, large and highly productive field Johan Sverdrup would continue operating for the time being. The labour organization representing workers, Lederne, called 43 of its members working on Johan Sverdrup off the job last Wednesday, when the strike began and added to a series of major problems for Equinor.
Other labour organizations including Industri Energi and Safe have accepted offers that apply to 85 percent of all offshore workers. Lederne, however, did not, opting to call the strike that began last week and now pulling another 54 members off the Gudrun, Gina Krog and Kvitebjørn platforms. Since Valemon is tied to Kvitebjørn, it was affected, too. Security personnel would remain on board the Kvitebjørn, but Equinor reported that it was taking some of its roughly 40 workers off the Gudrun and Gina Krog. The Valemon itself is operated from afar, so no offshore personnel is involved.
Remote operation that’s now possible through new technology is at the core of the strike. The oil and gas companies want to transfer offshore workers to control rooms on the mainland, but that can mean they would lose premium pay for working offshore. Lederne is demanding they be covered by their same offshore labour agreements, also after restructuring and technology has them working in control rooms on land for at least parts of the year.
Norog claims its offer nonetheless contains wage growth (external link to Norog’s website), and includes among other wage hikes an increase in the extra daily pay (tillegg) received for working on holidays (to NOK 2,060) and an increase of NOK 3.50 in the extra hourly pay for working night shifts, to NOK 80, that comes in addition to regular pay. Offshore workers in Norway are generally viewed as well-paid because of the risks involved in their work and shifts that regularly take them away from home and family.
Editor’s note: Lederne’s own report of its position is available only in Norwegian but can be seen here (external link to Lederne’s website).