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General: Offshore operators begin appeal against working time

Posted on 07.10.2006 - 11:58 EDT in GENERAL NEWS by Rons_ROV_Links

Offshore operators begin appeal against working timeOffshore union Amicus goes head-to-head with employers today in the latest round of a long-running battle over workers' holiday entitlements.

North Sea workers claim they are entitled to four weeks' holidays, over and above normal time off, under the European Working Time Directive.

In July last year they secured a legal victory to have their cases heard at industrial tribunals. But the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) appealed against the ruling and its case will be heard at the Employment Appeals Office in Edinburgh, today to Thursday.

Oil and gas firms believe they already comply with the directive and that the typical two weeks on, two off rota gives workers the minimum four weeks' annual leave required.

Last week, UKOOA promised to launch a fresh appeal if its current one should fail, in an effort to thwart any move to apply the Jaeger ruling - which concerns a German doctor who was considered by the European Court of Justice to be at work while he was asleep offshore.

UKOOA has warned the Jae-ger principle will have serious implications for the oil industry, and put hundreds of jobs at risk, if applied to the offshore workers. But Amicus says the extra paid holidays are essential for the industry to comply with the European directive, which was extended offshore and to other previously excluded sectors in August, 2003.

A new regulation making it clear the directive does apply to offshore workers came into force on Sunday.

Amicus regional officer Graham Tran yesterday accused UKOOA of hiding behind the Jaeger argument in a "fruitless" attempt to stop workers getting their "full holiday entitlement".

He added: "Our members offshore have advised that they have no longer any confidence in UKOOA when it comes to health and safety matters. They have lost all credibility in the eyes of the workforce. It is time for decent employers in the offshore sector to enter into positive dialogue with Amicus."

Mr Tran said Talisman Energy's recent decision to offer a two week on, three off arrangement to drilling contractor Odfjell was an example for other companies to follow.

A spokeswoman for UKOOA said: "Mr Tran appears to misunderstand the requirements of the directive. The rotas worked by the offshore workforce already provide workers with full holiday entitlement. Offshore workers get no less than 169 days a year field break and some get even more.

"This is more than enough time off to cover all the weekends, all the bank holidays and the four weeks' paid holiday enjoyed by their onshore colleagues, with more than seven weeks to spare. Working time regulations are about setting out minimum legal requirements."

The spokeswoman said Mr Tran had, so far, declined UKOOA's offer to "meet us to agree not to raise the Jaeger issue".

October 3, 2006


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