COTA STRIKE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

2 support the strike

Unite the union members who are employees of Aramark, Sodexo, Entier, Compass, ESS and Trinity, who work in the UKCS offshore sector and are under the COTA agreement in pay grades A-E have voted and mandated the union to take strike action and action short of strike.

The ballot results showed a majority voted 54.2% for strike action and 62.7% for action short of strike action. Unite offshore catering branch recommended that members voted Yes for Industrial action and Yes for industrial action up to and including strike action in the legal postal industrial ballot.

They are now recommending that you support any upcoming Industrial action that the branch calls on you to take. Industrial action is a key part of your Unions tactics to help win on pay.

Unite has always left the door open for pay talks to resume and are willing to enter meaningful negotiations to achieve a settlement to your pay dispute. COTA are refusing to open up any dialogue and this could mean that Unite will call on you to support Industrial Action in furtherance of the dispute.

Some members will have questions about taking part in industrial action and below are some answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ’s). Please ensure that you circulate this document to Unite members on your installation.

This guide covers the technical aspects of taking strike action, and a strike committee comprised of unite members has been formed to look at maximising the tactics in order that we can win the dispute. Unite will be campaigning in the coming weeks to strengthen the union and speak to as many workers in the North Sea as possible about the action.

Taking strike is always a last resort. We’ve been put in this position by the COTA companies unreasonable behaviour. WE’ve always left the door open for them to come back and talk, and this will remain the case up until we strike. By standing together against the removal of a reasonable and negotiated pay deal, we can hope to get the employers back to the table.

Should I take strike action?
All eligible UNITE members are expected to participate in lawful industrial action called following the ballot of members. The executive has taken the decision based on the outcome of the ballot to proceed with industrial action. In these circumstances then you are expected to take action
What should I do after the ballot result?
Unite only takes Industrial action once every other avenue of influence and negotiation has been exhausted. It is not a decision taken lightly. Unite officials and Strike committee took the decision to progress to strike action following an industrial action ballot ,that showed a majority of members who voted, voted to take strike action and action short of strike

We recognise that taking Industrial action is very serious, which is why Unite asks that you and every other member observes the ballot . Every member who does not take part in strike action undermines our bargaining power you have and makes it harder for us to protect all of you collectively our members.

When will the strike action take place?

Due to the complex statutory strike laws Unite has to give the employers notice of any action within 7 days of the ballot result and the first action must take place within 28 days of the ballot result

When will I know what and when action is?

Unite regional office in Aberdeen will co-ordinate any industrial action and communications around the strike directly to our members (please update your contact details with Unite ASAP )

Do I have to tell my employer that I am in the union?
No, Your employer might send you a formal-sounding letter asking you to declare in advance whether you are in the Union or balloting or intending in taking part in Industrial action. You are under no obligation to inform your employer in advance as to whether you will be taking part in Union activity.

Unite is legally required to give employers some statistical information about Unite members taking industrial action, but we do not give individual names of who are unite members or who is taking any Industrial action

How late can someone join the union and still take part in Industrial action ?
Employees can join the union at any point up to and including on the day of action and lawfully join the Industrial action, and they will be protected to take part in any industrial action
How will it affect my pension?
In some strikes (particularly short ones) employers may not withhold superannuation contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. Nonetheless it is a possibility. However institutions that do choose to withhold contributions usually make provision for members to make up pension and Additional Voluntary Contribution deficits from their pay.

Those in the COTA personal pension and for that matter in the Governments auto enrolment NEST pension contributions are based on a given % of earnings and this would be adjusted accordingly with earnings. There is no superannuation for these employees.

 know your rights (1)
Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?
All effective industrial action is a breach of your contract of employment. However, Unite has carried out a lawful statutory ballot. The law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances; dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.
 

How much money will I lose?

You should expect to have an equivalent pay deducted from your salary from the actual time you are on strike.
What if I am Ad- Hoc or seconded am I protected when on strike?
Exactly the same rules apply to ad-hoc workers involved in stike action as it does to other COTA graded employees.
Am not a Unite member. Can I take part in the strike?
We would like everyone to respect the Industrial Action or picket lines and not go into work, but if you are not a member of Unite you will not be legally covered and we will not be able to support you if the your company decides to take disciplinary action against you. However, you are able to join Unite and take part in action up to the day of the strike taking place.
What are the guidelines on emergency cover on the installation and strike action?

These details are currently being discussed and will be communicated in due course.

What are the next steps?
Unite offshore catering branch has set up a Strike committee who will liaise with all Unite reps who work offshore to keep them up to speed and keep communications between the Union and its members clear and debunk any rumours from management and Oil companies

Have a Unite Union point of contact on your rig who will be able to contact the Aberdeen Unite office during any Strike and Industrial action

Ask all non-union members who come under the COTA agreement to join Unite and support you in the strike action

Attend Unite offshore branch meeting: Unite Aberdeen office 44 King Street Aberdeen AB24 5TJ:

·                      Friday 06 Nov 10 am

·                      Friday 20 Nov 10 am

·                      Friday 27 Nov 10 am

Keep up to date with Unite communications:

·                      Website:  www.uniteoffshore2015.org

·                      Facebook :Unite offshore on Facebook

·                      Twitter :@UniteOffshore

·                      COTA Industrial Action Unite news website press release http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/unite-calls-for-urgent-talks-as-offshore-caterers-vote-for-industrial-action/

·                      ERS  Letter on ballot resulthttp://www.unitetheunion.org/uploaded/documents/0152-Cota-ag-res-21101511-24473.pdf

Unite contact: John Boland Regional Officer

E-Mail John.boland@unitetheunion.org

Tel – 01224 645 271

Aberdeen Office

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COTA Ballot: Members vote Yes Yes

Unite is now preparing for industrial action in the North Sea after members under the COTA agreement voted to take industrial action. 54.2% of members voted for strike and 62.7% also voted for action short of strike against the employers who refused to honour the second year of a two year negotiated pay deal. Unite has registered its disappointment that no amicable conclusion could be reached.

Regional Officer John Boland said: “We have always left the door open for the employers to come back to the table and talk about re-establishing the pay deal – and that remains the case.

“We are not blind to the significant challenges facing our industry – our members have been at the coal-face of the downturn from the start – but it sets a dangerous precedent for employment rights if companies are able to impose change without negotiation and that’s why we are now looking at a strike action scenario.

“We are taking a stand now to protect out terms and conditions in the long run.”

Workers in the North Sea are currently being subjected to an unprecedented attack by employers driven by a ‘race to the bottom’ agenda on jobs, terms and conditions.  A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Oil & Gas Industry Council warned firms against making short-term tactical cuts rather than focusing on longer-term structural changes.

As much as the COTA companies try to tell us they need to cut pay to save jobs, the evidence simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Imposed cuts will effectively run the industry into ‘managed decline’. We want a sustainable future for the oil industry and our members have decided that the best way to achieve this is to take a stand against this attack on thousands of livelihoods.

The Unite COTA branch has established a Strike Committee who will meet again to further discuss tactics regarding the industrial action. We will issue a communication to members in the coming week advising on the next steps.

The Unite COTA branch meetings are being held on the 6th, 20th and 27th of November at 10 am in the Unite office at 44-46 King Street, Aberdeen.

COTA BALLOT : Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What if I haven’t received my ballot paper?

If you haven’t yet received your ballot you must contact the Aberdeen office ASAP so you can be reissued one. Because this is a formal industrial action ballot, rather than a consultative one, the ballot process is run by the Electoral Reform Services. This is part of trade unions’ legal obligations in running a successful ballot. Unite can re-issue one to you automatically, you must contact Aberdeen on 01224 645271 urgently. Today (16th of October) is the last day that you can request a replacement ballot

2. When should I return the ballot by?

The official closing date for the ballot is 21st of October, however, as it is a postal ballot, it is crucial that your ballot is returned by the 19th of October. This is the final date for posting if you want to be sure that your ballot is counted.

3. Do I have to tell me employer how I’ve voted?

No. Your ballot is secret and you are not under any obligations to share your voting preferences with the employer. Unite have produced guidance on your rights as a union member at work, which can be found on this site.

4. What happens after the ballot closes?

Once the ballot has closed and counted, we will alert members by text and email. From the Unite COTA Branch, a strike committee has been elected in order to make preparations, whatever the result.

Unite will continue to fight for our members and make sure that we are well paid and well respected for the jobs we do in the North Sea.

REMINDER; RETURN YOUR BALLOT. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.

reminder

Please ensure that you return your ballot for industrial action. The Unite COTA Branch are recommending that members vote YES/YES.

Let’s send a clear message to the COTA employers that pulling out of the second year of a two year negotiated pay deal simply isn’t acceptable.

If they get away with this, then what will happen to our terms and conditions in the months and years to come?

Urgent COTA Campaign Update

Unite have received reports that some COTA companies have written to employees disclosing Unite’s membership figures. Members have told us that their employer has written to them stating that Unite has a certain percentage membership with the company.

However, we believe this is an attempt to portray union membership as low.  We are balloting a significant number of COTA workers. The employers are responding by trying to discourage members from voting YES YES on the ballot papers.

Unite is actually the largest union in the North Sea. The figures expressed by the employers in these letters represent a very small percentage of Unite’s strength under COTA in the North Sea. Not all Sodexo, Aramark, ESS, Entier or Trinity staff are covered by the COTA agreement, so expressing our membership as a percentage as some employers have done simply isn’t accurate.

Know your rights:

We’ve also had reports of some managers asking workers if they are members of a trade union. You are under no compulsion to tell them the answer, although there is no law stating that they cannot ask.

Employment Law is clear on this. You have the statutory right to join a trade union. Your employer isn’t allowed to:

  • offer you a benefit to leave a trade union
  • threaten to treat you unfairly if you don’t leave a trade union
  • refuse to employ you for trade union membership reasons
  • Dismiss you or choose your for redundancy because you are a trade union member or want to take part in trade union activities

Nor can your employer or employment agency insist that you join or leave a trade union or leave one trade union for another.

Unite has a proud record of defending those who are victimised for being union members. We always make it clear to all employers that Unite will not tolerate victimisation of our members and we will respond robustly to any further intimidations of Unite members.

Vote Yes Yes:

We’re asking member to vote YES to both questions on the ballot paper. This will put us in the strongest possible position to demand that the employers come back to the table to discuss implementing our pay deal. If we are not prepared to say that we will take industrial action then our message to the COTA companies is weakened.

Only by voting YES/YES can we send a clear strong and united message to the COTA companies that cutting our pay is absolutely not acceptable.”

OCA: Be Ballot Ready

We’re still preparing for an industrial action ballot for OCA Unite members, following the rejection of the OCA offer.

It can’t be said enough: we must be ballot ready.

It’s really important that all members ensure their details are up to date. This isn’t just your address- we need to know details like your rig, contract type and employer.

If we go ahead with a ballot, then it’s likely that the employers will challenge us in court. If this happens, Unite need to show that we’ve done everything we can to ensure all our members details are correct.

You will recieve an email from Unite asking you to check and update your details. Please do this ASAP so we can be ballot ready.BE BALLOT READY