Four out of five offshore workers would consider leaving industry, survey finds

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Four out of five offshore oil and gas workers would consider leaving the industry, according to a survey of the workforce by environmental organisations.

The study found morale is low among the workforce, with 81% saying they would consider switching to another sector and only 7% saying they definitely want to stick with oil and gas.

However it found that given the option of retraining to work elsewhere in the energy sector, more than half would be interested in renewables and offshore wind.

The report, published by Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace UK, surveyed 1,383 offshore oil and gas workers, which represents 4.5% of that workforce.

Campaigners are calling for the UK and Scottish governments to consult with workers to shape policy together so their experiences and ideas are used to steer Covid-19 recovery packages and the transition to renewable energy.

Ryan Morrison, Friends of the Earth Scotland just transition campaigner, said: “These workers are the backbone of our energy sector but have faced years of job insecurity amid volatile oil markets, lax regulation and now the global pandemic.

“Despite the Scottish Government’s rhetoric, the idea of a just transition has failed to reach the overwhelming majority of the workers who will be most directly impacted.

“Workers’ voices must be at the centre of that transition process. The government must ensure oil and gas workers are supported into secure and sustainable jobs.

“These results reveal an urgent need to improve terms and conditions for workers offshore and tackle job insecurity.

“The solutions provided by the workers could also increase opportunities in renewables and make the process of transition to renewables far easier.”

The survey also found that more than four in 10 (43%) of those questioned had been made redundant or furloughed since March 2020, while 81% are open to leaving the industry.

It found that nine out of 10 (91%) respondents had not heard of the term “just transition”, meaning a phase-out of oil and gas production in the North Sea and move to renewable energy.

Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The oil and gas industry is a significant component of the Scottish economy and has a crucial role to play in the energy transition required to move to an economy and society that generates net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“Now, more than ever, we need a just transition that supports sustainable economic growth and jobs.

“We know how important a sustainable future is for those who work in the oil and gas sector and its supply chain.”

He said the Scottish Government’s £62 million Energy Transition Fund helps protect existing jobs and create new jobs across Scotland by opening up opportunities through energy transition and harnessing private sector funding, while the Strategic Leadership Group on Oil and Gas and Energy Transition, which includes union representation, has met six times during the pandemic to identify support for the sector.

Mr Wheelhouse added: “We continue to work closely with the UK Government, which retains many of the key levers needed to support the sector, to ensure both governments are doing all they can to protect jobs and retain vital skills.”

The UK Government has been asked for comment.

Oil and Gas UK, representative body for the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry, called on campaign groups to meaningfully engage with the sector to ensure a fair and positive transition for energy communities.

Its chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “We need to work together and listen to everyone in our industry as we make our positive vision for the future into a reality.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “The oil and gas sector will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future as we transition to a clean energy future and meet our net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

“The green economy has the potential to support two million jobs by 2030, which is why we are working with the industry and trade unions to deliver a North Sea transition deal to ensure those working in the oil and gas sector can benefit from this growth.”

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