Oil union in MSF merger

Offshore organisation which started as a protest movement joins the mainstream

By Andrew Cavenagh

The OILC offshore workers’ union plans to merge with the Manufacturing Science and Finance union before the summer.

Senior officials from the two organisations held talks this week, and the 1,300 OILC members will be asked to vote on the move at their annual conference in May.

Details have still to be resolved, but the broad agreement is for OILC to retain its name as the offshore section of the MSF.

The merger will bring the OILC into the mainstream union movement. Up to now the Trades Union Congress has refused to recognise it, since it began life as a protest movement organising strikes over pay and conditions after the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster. It recruited disaffected members from the established – and TUC-affiliated – offshore unions.

Jake Molloy, OILC general secretary, said the move would give his union more influence in discussions with employers and the Government on issues critical to the industry’s future – including union recognition and the European directive to limit working hours. ‘We’ll certainly be issued a seat on the [TUC’s] Inter-Union Offshore Oil Committee,’ he said.

Molloy said OILC had not sought the merger. But since its plan to join the National Union of Mineworkers was aborted last year, it had been approached by the MSF and a rival offshore union. The terms of the latter offer had been unacceptable.

Roger Spiller, general secretary of the MSF, said the merger would create the UK’s largest offshore union, with more than 5,000 members, and bring together two organisations with a strong commitment to health and safety issues.