Unite the Union the largest trade union in the North Sea and in the Oil & Gas offshore sector is calling for investment and public investment in the North sea UKCS
If you are a member of Unite you can get active with Unite, contact your MP or MSP Get active with Unite.
1.Contact your MP or MSP Raise your concerns ref public investment into the North sea sector
2 Encourage work colleagues to Join Unite
3. Campaign around investment in secure skills and jobs in the UKCS, Contact to your local elected parliamentarians and join with other Offshore workers and Unite reps and regional officers to organise delegations to the UK and Scottish Parliaments
As you will be aware Union members, working under the Offshore Contractors Association Agreement, rejected an offer from the OCA in a consultative ballot vote following which both Unite and GMB declared a formal Trades Dispute with the OCA.
In an attempt to avoid a Trades Dispute your union Workplace Reps, National and Regional Union Officers have held further negotiations over the past few weeks with senior officials of the OCA as per the dispute resolution procedure.
For your information and consideration, the letter from the OCA dated 8th February 2017 outlining their pay increase offer, is in the link
We have repeatedly pointed out to the OCA employers that we want all those working under the OCA agreement to receive a pay increase so that those who are on wages above the OCA minimum pay rates should get their OCA part of their salary uplifted by the % increases offered by the OCA.
Unfortunately, the OCA are saying that their mandate only covers the minimum rates of pay.
It would then be down to the individual OCA companies who pay in excess of the OCA rates to decide if they apply the % increase to the additional part of their employees’ salary or not.
We are now communicating this OCA offer to you because it’s the Unions members that decide if the pay increase offer is acceptable or unacceptable as it’s not for the Union Workplace Reps or Union officers to make that decision.
We would be grateful if you now gave careful consideration to the OCA pay increase offer as outlined in their letter and decide whether you find it is acceptable or not.
Postal ballots are not giving us the desired high percentage ballot returns we would like to get from our Unite members. It is, of course, vital that we reach out to all our members and they cast their votes accordingly. As ever, it is you the member who will determine the outcome of this ballot.
Please make sure that you exercise your digital vote no later than 12.00 noon on Monday 20th March 2017 and encourage your fellow Unite members to do likewise.
You will be receiving an email with your unique voting code and details how to vote very shortly. Please check your emails and junk/spam folders in case in goes there. If you do not receive the voting email contact the Unite office on 01224 645271.
We are still requiring an update from some Union members as to their personal details of job title and current work location so we are continuing to write or e-mail separately to those who we still need these details from.
So if you have received a letter or e – mail requesting this information then please respond as we do need it for legal purposes for a strike ballot.
This is because should the OCA pay offer be rejected then it’s more likely that we will be looking at sustained periods of strike action over the coming months and possibly throughout the summer should the return from an industrial action ballot give union members that legal mandate to strike.
Tommy Campbell & John Boland
If you are not yet a member of Unite and you are employed by an OCA signatory employer to have your say in your terms & conditions
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Unite is the largest trade union for offshore workers in the North Sea UKCS
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Unite demands government outlaws umbrella companies
Unite, the country’s biggest union for construction workers, has called for umbrella companies to be outlawed after a BBC report exposed how construction workers are falling victim to wage theft.
The union made its demand after BBC Look North today (February 24) carried an expose on how workers operating via umbrella companies in construction and other sectors are having huge deductions taken from their pay.
Umbrella company workers have to pay employers’ and employees’ national insurance contributions as well as income tax, a tax rate of 45.8 pence in the pound on eligible earnings. Workers often have their holiday pay rolled into the rate, meaning they are unpaid when taking leave. If they pay into an auto-enrolment pension they have to pay both employee and employer contributions. Umbrella company workers have to pay a fee of around £20 a week to be paid in this manner.
Unite have recently established a bogus self-employment unit to step up their support of members who are being denied basic employment rights. The unit is also targeting umbrella companies.
Acting general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “Umbrella companies are highly immoral and rip off workers. The government need to end the misery of umbrella company workers by outlawing this practice and all forms of bogus self-employment.”
“Unite has already succeeded in outlawing umbrella companies for example on Hinkley Point. The Scottish and Welsh governments and several local authorities have introduced measures outlawing umbrella companies on public sector contracts. If the government fails to act we will step up pressure on all public and private sector organisations to ban these sinister organisations.”
“The message is loud and clear Unite are coming for rogue employers who increasingly rely on false self-employment. We will leave no stone unturned in exposing the blatant unfairness of umbrella companies, ending exploitation and getting justice for our members.”
The government has previously estimated that 430,000 workers are paid via umbrella companies. Unite believes that this figure is an underestimate as unscrupulous employers in sectors such as logistics, supply teaching and pharmaceuticals are increasingly using this form of employment.
Notes to editors:
The huge growth in umbrella companies operating in construction began in April 2014. This was a result of government legislation which attempted to outlaw employment agencies from bogusly self-employing construction workers. Overnight the industry moved to the umbrella company model in order to avoid paying employer’s NI contributions.
For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.
Umbrella companies: the latest way to exploit Britain’s temporary workers
Employers are dodging NI and cutting basic rights by loading the responsibility on to workers, say unions, as supply teachers reveal scale of exploitation
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Samantha Downes, with additional reporting by Patrick Collinson
Peter is a supply teacher in his 60s who has been forced to sign up to an umbrella company – or effectively abandon hope of getting any more work. Linda, 42, who has taught for 11 years says she is losing £100 a month because of the fees her umbrella firm charges. Another supply teacher told us his take-home pay has been “drastically reduced”.
Few people will have heard of umbrella companies, yet critics say they have become the latest way to exploit more than half-a-million temporary workers in the UK, denying them basic employment rights and shifting the employer’s responsibility to pay national insurance contributions (NICs) and pensions.
Usually, supply teachers hired under an umbrella arrangement are paid extra, say £140 a day rather than £120. But from this they have to pay two lots of NICs – both the employee’s rate and the 13.8% employer’s rate. The extra pay is also supposed to cover holiday entitlements and pensions, too. What’s more, there are usually admin fees on top.
According to teachers’ union NASUWT, almost a third of supply teachers have been forced to join an umbrella company in order to get work from an agency. Patrick Roach, deputy general secretary, said: “We are finding that more and more supply teachers are being forced into this form of self-employment without any choice.”
The National Union of Teachers also has “serious reservations”. It says the main concern is “one of principle” adding, “the high fees charged by agencies and umbrella companies drain funding for education away from schools – but they still pay supply teachers much less than those directly employed by local authorities and schools. Furthermore, many umbrella companies are based overseas in order to avoid liability for tax on their profit
All the teachers Guardian Money spoke to would only agree to be quoted on the basis on anonymity, fearing that if identified they may not obtain work.
Linda told us she had “grave concerns” about using an umbrella company and having to pay fees for administration she would have done herself. “If I earn more than £180 I am charged between £15 and £28 simply for using the agency’s nominated umbrella company,” she said. “Other supply teachers I know are in the same boat. Over four weeks this easily adds up to over a £100.”
Peter said that there was now no choice about whether you were paid by the agency or an umbrella firm. “I have found them to be at best unhelpful and at worst corrupt,” he said. “As well as having to pay a fee, they cannot be relied upon to pay what you have already earned by prior agreement with the supply teaching agency. It can take weeks or months to be paid. They deduct a large fee and charge the teacher the employer’s NICs.”
Another teacher claimed he had been short-changed. “The rate does not allow for the fact we have to pay employer’s NICs,” he said. “Also, the company the agency uses for payment charges £6 per day service charge to employees.”
Umbrella companies aren’t just common among supply teachers – the practice is rampant in the construction industry and is moving into other sectors. When Katherine Petts (not her real name) came to the end of her contract as a pharmaceutical company worker, her employment agency, Hays, offered her a nine-month contract doing a similar job on the same salary. “It seemed perfect, my salary was £40,000, and I was able to step into the same role.” But then came the sting in the tail – she was told she either had to join an umbrella company or set up a limited company to get paid.
She decided to opt for the umbrella company. “The idea of setting up a limited company just seem too onerous,” she said. But within a fortnight she realised that meant she was £75 a week worse off. “The fee is £22 a week and I also have to pay both employer’s and employee’s NICs. I also chose to take my holiday pay upfront, which you would think would make me better off, but it has not. I’ve also been told I will have to, at some point, join a pension as part of auto-enrolment. That will mean I pay both my own and the employer’s pension contributions.
“In my old role I was temporary staff and paid on the PAYE system. Here I am technically self-employed paying both employer and employee tax, and it sucks. I’m going to have to look for another job – £75 a week is our food bill and then some.”
UCATT, the union which represents construction workers, is leading a fightback, and has described these companies as a “con-trick”. New government rules in 2014 were designed to tackle the sham of “self-employment” among construction workers in the hope they would be paid on a normal PAYE basis. “Instead, overnight, thousands of construction workers were given no option other than to operate via an umbrella company,” said UCATT. It accuses the industry of “blatant tax dodging”, calculating that for a £700-per-week construction worker, HMRC picks up more than £200 in tax when they are directly employed, but less than £150 when they go through an umbrella company.
The union was behind a motion overwhelmingly passed at this year’s TUC conference to fight the use of umbrella firms. The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “We have real concerns about the growth in umbrella companies around the UK, which could lead to an avoidance of basic employment rights and tax obligations.
“There are often long supply chains involved and it can be very difficult for workers to enforce their rights and get treated fairly.”
A spokesperson for Hays said that the way its temporary workers were paid was at an individual’s discretion. “Neither Hays, nor the client, dictates this, nor benefits from one pay arrangement over another. The onus is therefore on the individual to choose the option that is most appropriate for them and to check any companies they decide to work with,” it said.
The trade association representing umbrella companies strongly disputes the criticisms. Julia Kermode of the FCSA (the freelancer and contractor services association) cites case studies where supply teachers have been very happy to use umbrella companies – especially where they may be working in several different schools across the week, possibly through different agencies. Then the umbrella makes payments smoother and more efficient.
Kermode says UCATT’s criticisms are based on a misunderstanding about tax. “There should be an uplift on the rate [when paid via an umbrella company] to take account of the employer’s national insurance,” although she acknowledges that it can’t be guaranteed in each and every case that the worker receives the appropriate uplift.
“When unions first became aware of umbrella firms they were concerned about the apparent deduction of employers’ NICs from pay. However, this deduction should be factored into calculating the assignment rate, ie, it is in addition to workers’ gross pay. All employers are legally required to pay employees’ NICs, as well as processing employee deductions.
“Umbrella firms enable individuals to receive all benefits of employment whilst working on numerous different assignments. Good firms are wholly transparent in their dealings with workers, providing them with a clear contract of employment, all statutory rights and benefits, and transparency in how their pay is calculated.”
Unite backs call for public investment in North Sea assets
Unite is urging the Scottish Government to back Scottish Labour’s call for public investment in crucial North Sea assets at risk of being scrapped amid the oil downturn.
North-East MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled a motion at Holyrood suggesting the SNP administration and UK Government use their borrowing powers to buy a stake in infrastructure such as pipelines and platforms.
It will be debated at the Scottish Parliament today.
As the Press and Journal revealed earlier this week, a similar motion will be brought forward at Scottish Labour’s conference this weekend.
Drafted by Aberdeen South and North Kincardine constituency Labour party (CLP), it urges both the UK and Scottish Governments to temporarily acquire strategically important assets.
Some 120,000 posts have been axed in the last two years as oil prices plummeted, according to estimates.
Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said the union’s members were the worst affected by the crisis and acknowledged the sector was going through a difficult time.
But he insisted that with the “right support” it had a future.
He added: “The Scottish Government can’t do everything to help us out of these difficulties, but it should be leading by example.
“This motion calls on the Scottish Government to start discussions with the UK Government, industry and trade unions to create a plan for co-investment that will support jobs, increase confidence and create returns to the public purse.
“We hope every MSP will support the motion. Our members in the sector expect nothing less.”
Mr Macdonald said he hoped to secure commitments from SNP ministers to explore the possibility of a “more pro-active response to the downturn in the North Sea”.
On the question of public investment, Scottish Business and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the Scottish Government had long called for reform to the fiscal regime, including improved access to decommissioning tax relief.
He added: “The Scottish Government has repeatedly demanded action from UK ministers, who retain the key economic levers to ensure the industry and its workforce have the future they deserve.”
He also pointed to the Oil and Gas Industry Leadership Group, £12million Transition Training Fund, the newly launched technology centre and the Energy Jobs Taskforce.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy insisted the UK Government had already provided “extensive support” in response to falling oil prices through a £2.3billion package of measures.
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Join Unite online today!
Unite is the largest trade union for offshore workers in the North Sea UKCS
Have a voice, take action and make change happen. Join the union
Labour is to debate a call for the UK and Scottish governments to bring key North Sea assets into public ownership to prevent oil and gas reserves being “turned off prematurely”.
The party is to demand action from Holyrood and Westminster to help the industry, which has been struggling since the slump in oil prices.
It comes amid fears that more than 100,000 workers in the sector have lost their jobs.
A motion to be discussed at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth on Friday urges the SNP Government in Edinburgh and the Tory administration in London to “agree a co-investment plan to support the industry, taking a public stake where necessary, to protect vital offshore infrastructure”.
This could see both platforms and pipelines bought up and brought into the public sector.
The motion, which has been put forward by the Aberdeen South and North Kincardine branch of the party, calls for action from ministers to “maximise the opportunities from future decommissioning”.
North East MSP Lewis Macdonald said: ” Labour has put forward a positive plan to secure the future of our oil and gas industry.
“By supporting this motion, Scottish Labour will reaffirm its commitment to protecting the north-east’s reputation as the energy capital of Europe. Government intervention could ensure that the North Sea taps are not turned off prematurely.
“As well as protecting the jobs of today, we will also fight to ensure Scotland has a comprehensive decommissioning strategy so the North Sea can continue to deliver jobs for the next generation.”
Mr Macdonald said his party’s stance is ” in contrast to the SNP and the Tories, who have been all at sea in their response to the oil price downturn”.
He added: ” The nationalists were happy to parade the strengths of the oil and gas industry during their doomed separation drive. Now it seems they are happy to let the North Sea flounder.”
A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ” We’ve already provided extensive support in response to falling oil prices through a £2.3 billion package of measures, and committed £40 million to new seismic studies to help uncover more opportunities.
“This was only made possible because of the broad shoulders of the wider UK economy.”
A spokesman for Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: ” We have long called for reform to the North Sea fiscal regime, including improved access to decommissioning tax relief, protecting critical pieces of infrastructure and greater support for exploration.
“And we have repeatedly demanded action from UK ministers, who retain the key economic levers over the sector, to ensure the industry and its workforce have the future they deserve. When we called for further support for North Sea workers in advance of the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Labour were presumably too busy fighting their own internal battles, because any support from them for our calls to help the industry was nowhere to be heard.
“Labour are also talking nonsense on the issue of Scottish Government support for workers affected by the oil industry downturn. Our Transition Training Fund has already directly supported over 1,500 individuals made redundant, in addition to more than 700 further individuals being helped through two formal training procurement rounds.
“We will continue to work with the sector through the Oil and Gas Industry Leadership Group, the Energy Jobs Taskforce, the newly launched £180 million Oil & Gas Technology Centre, through our enterprise agencies and through the delivery of the £12 million TTF itself. Co-operation and innovation are on the up, oil prices are improving, production costs are lower and, crucially, production has increased – for the first time in over 15 years.”