Workers on £500m facility “overwhelmingly” back strike action in row over living quarters and travel

The £500m plant will supply gas from mid 2014

The £500m plant will supply gas from mid 2014

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services workers on a £500m gas plant on Shetland have voted “overwhelmingly” for strike action in a long-running dispute over sharing living quarters and travel issues.

The row at the plant, being built at Sullom Voe by main contractor Petrofac for French oil giant Total, relates to a claim for an additional £50 per day to compensate for what the GMB union describes as the “failure” to provide suitable accommodation plus the lengthy travelling time workers are required to undertake each day.

The GMB said a ballot of its members employed by subcontractor Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) had voted “overwhelmingly” for industrial action following a similar result in another vote by workers represented by Unite.

GMB secretary in Scotland, Harry Donaldson, said: “GMB will seek urgent talks with the main contractor to convey to them the ballot results and impress on management to need to seriously address the long running issues involved in this dispute.

“The employers need to sit up and take notice of this overwhelming vote and put forward an offer to resolve this long running dispute.

“Petrofac have buried their heads in the sand for too long on important issues on this project.”

In a statement, Petrofac told the Scotsman newspaper that it was “surprised” by the decision to strike, adding that workers had agreed in advance to share accommodation and were better paid than workers doing equivalent work on the mainland.

The spokesperson added: “Petrofac takes the welfare of its workers very seriously and is committed to working with all parties to reach a satisfactory outcome while delivering the project successfully.

“We have always aimed to maintain a constructive relationship with the unions – and we’ll be looking to meet quickly with them to see how we can move forward on this issue.”

Work on the plant began in early 2010 with the plant due to become operational midway through this year.