chapter  3
17 Pages

Organizing in the offshore oil and gas industry in Britain, c. 1972–1990

A long burning flame or a spark that has gone out?
ByGregor Gall

Since its inception in the early 1970s, the UK sector of the offshore North Sea oil and gas industry has represented the largest sector of industry in Britain by numbers of workers employed, and has remained non-union and without union recognition. Given the preponderance of manual workers in the industry and their traditionally high propensity to unionize, as well as the period in which the offshore regulatory regime was established, under a “traditional” Labour government, this appears somewhat surprising, and contrasts markedly with the powerfully entrenched oil workers’ union, the OFS, in the Norwegian sister sector. To take but one example, namely the extremely high levels of fatalities, epitomized by the July 1988 Piper Alpha disaster where 167 oil workers were killed, there would appear to be a clear need for trade unionism to protect the safety and interests of the workforce and regulate the activities of the powerful multi-national oil corporations through union recognition.