Smoking strifeNavion established

Strike on Polycrown

person Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Statoil’s operations were hit again when the Federation of Offshore Workers Trade Unions (OFS) called a strike on five rigs, including the Polycrown flotel serving Statfjord A.
— Polycrown. Photo: Equinor/Øyvind Hagen
© Norsk Oljemuseum

The union was negotiating with the Norwegian Shipowners Association, and had failed to reach agreement on supplementary protocols concerning seniority rules and pay for new employees.

Both the other unions involved – the Norwegian Oil and Petrochemical Workers Union (Nopef), part of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), and the Cooperating Organisations (the Norwegian Union of Marine Engineers and the Norwegian Maritime Officers Association) – had already accepted the offer from the shipowners.Statoil was immediately forced to start transferring more than 300 people from the strike-hit flotel. Production continued as normal on the A and C platforms, but problems arose in resuming production on Statfjord B after the annual maintenance turnaround.

As the owner of Polycrown, Statoil suffered the biggest loss from the strike, but Rasmussen Maritime Services – responsible for operating the flotel – was also affected.

After two and a half weeks, the strike was stepped up with tools being downed on a further three rigs. Once again, an OFS strike was sharply debated both internally and externally.

The Norwegian Maritime Officers Association allied itself with the owners, and maintained that the strike was a classic example of an irresponsible conflict. It argued that OFS had fanned the flames by striking over a settlement accepted by 80 per cent of the workers concerned.

After a month, the two sides were called in to the National Mediator without a solution being found. As a response to the lengthy stoppage, the shipowners announced that they would institute a lockout on 8 October covering OFS members still not on strike. This was intended to forestall an extension of the stoppage by the union.

On 3 October, five days before the lockout was due to come into force, the government moved a Bill to impose compulsory arbitration. The OLF resolved on the same day to stay on strike until the Storting (parliament) could adopt this Act – which would be no earlier than the end of October. That represented a breach with customary practice in Norwegian labour disputes, which called for a return to work as soon as the government moved the Bill.

This was not the first time that the OFS had broken with such customs. During the 1990 pay dispute, it had also waited to resume work until the formal Act was adopted.

The central committee of the YS, to which the OFS had only belonged for seven months, urged it in the strongest possible terms to call of the strike.

For its part, the OFS reacted sharply to the fact that a legal stoppage had been halted yet again through the use of compulsory arbitration. This was the 12th time since 1980, and the OFS had been forced back to work in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1990 and 1994.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) also criticised the Norwegian government for imposing compulsory arbitration, and pointed out that this undermined the right to strike.

Smoking strifeNavion established
Published December 2, 2019   •   Updated January 2, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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