Oil Change International and Platform express their solidarity with striking workers on platforms in the North Sea operated by French oil giant Total. A series of strikes by Unite members began on Monday, July 23, with follow-ups planned over the coming weeks.

The strikes are in response to the company’s decision to impose a new working “3-on/3-off” rota that would require three-week offshore stints, instead of the previous two weeks. A recent study by Robert Gordon University found that workers on the three-week cycle are significantly more likely to experience ill health than those on 2-on/2-off shifts, and are at greater risk of offshore accidents.

North Sea oil companies such as Total have been heavily subsidised by the UK taxpayer. It is inexcusable that they then fail to respect workers’ right to a safe workplace and to a healthy family life.

As North Sea oil reserves are exhausted, oil companies have sought to cut corners to save money, while at the same time demanding ever greater taxpayer handouts. Meanwhile, they have done little or nothing to transition their business in line with the Paris goals. Total, for instance, currently aims to expand its global oil production by 5% per year over the next five years, even as the world needs to be decarbonising.

We believe that from employment practices to climate change, corporations like Total are standing in the way, and governments must stop helping them obstruct progress.

Instead of continuing to subsidise oil companies’ profits, the government should divert public money to building a sustainable energy economy, with well-paid, safe unionised jobs in clean energy, while toughening regulation to protect existing oil workers.

Meanwhile, we commend the courage of members of Unite the Union in standing up to Total’s bullying.