For the public at large an offshore worker is considered ‘lucky’ because – “they get half the year off!”
Given this opinion the idea an offshore worker should have more time off is unlikely to get much public support.
However, to consider how ‘lucky’ the offshore worker is you have to understand the various aspects of ‘time’ and there are three types of ‘time’.
“Working Time” is the time spent physically working offshore, which, on a 3:3 rota, is 12-hours a day for 21 consecutive days, doing a total of 182-days a year. Doing the maths, that’s equal to 42-hours a week, every week of the year. This doesn’t include the hours offshore spent off-shift. It doesn’t include overtime worked or the time spent attending training courses onshore. It also means sacrifice, having worked Christmas offshore for six consecutive years, missed the birth of my daughter, birthdays, weddings, funerals and the loss of my mother, I got off lightly compared to others.
“Field Break” is the time spent away from the oil ‘field’ taking a ‘break’ hence the term “field break”. The worker should be at home resting for 3-weeks, but for many it will involve spending more time away from home on a training course.
“Holiday” is time some workers get away from work. In other words, like every other type of worker in every other industry, it is time off work taking a holiday. However, for many offshore workers the “holiday time” has to be taken during the “Field Break” time, meaning there is no time off work. Putting that into context, it would be comparable to a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 worker being told to take their holidays during their weekends.
The UK offshore sector has too many variations and applications of ‘time’ creating inequality, unfairness and low morale. A standardised system of working is long overdue and 2-weeks working time followed by 3-weeks field break must now be considered the simplest, fairest approach. It also eliminates the “holiday time” element and it would bring the working year of offshore workers down to somewhere around the average worked across UK industry.
RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy