• Major survey of offshore oil and gas workers reveals that four in five would consider moving to work in another industry.
  • Workers’ biggest concern for their future career path is job security, with respondents citing low morale and fears that their community will become a ‘wasteland region’.
  • 91% of workers have never heard of a ‘just transition’ despite the obvious implications for the industry in an energy transition.
  • Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace UK are urging the government to consult with oil and gas workers in the UK’s transition to renewable energy.

FOUR in five offshore oil and gas workers would consider leaving the industry, according to a major new survey of the workforce.

Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace UK, have today (29/9/20) published a report, ‘OFFSHORE: Workers’ Views on Industry Conditions and the Energy Transition’, in which 1,383 offshore oil and gas workers were surveyed, which represents 4.5% of that workforce [1].

Some 81% said they would consider switching to another sector, with only 7% saying they definitely want to stick with oil and gas. [2]. The top priority for workers was job security [3], with 43% of respondents saying they had been made redundant or furloughed since March.

One worker, Frank*, who has been in the industry for 40 years, said: “Morale is low, certainly in Aberdeen where 75% of the people are contractors… I know guys who have had two or three pay cuts over six months, no negotiations, nothing.”

Campaigners are calling for the UK and Scottish Governments to sit down with workers to shape policy together so that their experiences and ideas are used to steer Covid-19 recovery packages and the energy transition.

Ryan Morrison, Friends of the Earth Scotland Just Transition Campaigner said,

“These workers are the backbone of our energy sector but have faced years of job insecurity amid volatile oil markets, lax regulation and now the global pandemic.

“Despite the Scottish Government’s rhetoric, the idea of a just transition has failed to reach the overwhelming majority of the workers who will be most directly impacted. Workers’ voices must be at the centre of that transition process. The government must ensure oil and gas workers are supported into secure and sustainable jobs.”

“These results reveal an urgent need to improve terms and conditions for workers offshore and tackle job insecurity. The solutions provided by the workers could also increase opportunities in renewables and make the process of transition to renewables far easier.”

Workers were asked about their working conditions; the effects of Covid-19 and the oil price crisis, and alternative employment. Survey findings also show:

• 43% had been made redundant or furloughed since March 2020
• 91% of respondents had not heard of the term ‘just transition’ [5].
• Given the option of retraining to work elsewhere in the energy sector, more than half would be interested in renewables and offshore wind.

Despite their relevant knowledge and experience, no public body has attempted a broad consultation of offshore workers about their livelihoods and the future of the energy industry.

For example, since launching in 2018, the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission has prioritised private businesses, industry representatives and regional enterprise bodies. Meanwhile the sector deal being drawn up by UK energy ministers has no mechanism for consulting oil and gas workers.

Written responses in the survey revealed some of the hardships that workers have faced, both in the recent pandemic and as a result of volatility in the industry.

One worker said: “I have now been off work for 14 weeks and I have not received a penny due to me being employed by an agency. They have just ended my contract and hung me out to dry. I do not fall into any category for receiving any payment from anywhere.”

Another respondent answered: “I just think it’s a better work environment out of the oil and gas industry. It’s always boom and bust to some degree but the last five years have not been a pleasant environment to work in – that’s five years of mental toil.”

One response states: “It seems the oil companies have got away with everything but the workforce gets hammered… The way the industry is treating their workers, especially those in a situation similar to mine is an absolute disgrace and should not be allowed to happen.”

Survey answers also provide insight into solutions that workers consider central to protecting industry workers’ career prospects.

One worker suggested: “It should be a condition of getting a licence to build a wind farm in Scotland that the fabrication is awarded to a Scottish based yard.”

A common theme was offering opportunities and financial support for retraining.

One person said: “Offer training to allow skills to be transferred from oil and gas to renewables sectors. Invest heavily in renewables. Encourage children, students, graduates away from an unsustainable oil and gas sector and into renewables. As Scotland has huge wind/wave/hydro resources she must become a front runner in the global renewables sector.”

And another stated: “Retrain while keeping a liveable wage. Last time there was a slump in oil prices there was opportunity to retrain but it was near impossible to navigate the red tape to get access to the training.”

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity. Full case studies are included in the report.


For full case studies or to request spokespeople for interview, please contact the Friends of the Earth Scotland Press Office.

Read the full report, OFFSHORE: Workers’ Views on Industry Conditions and the Energy Transition’ https://foe.scot/resource/offshore-oil-and-gas-workers-views/

Free to use, press quality images available. Credit: Marten van Dijl / Greenpeace

[1] The Oil & Gas UK Workforce Report 2019 stated that there were an estimated 30,600 people directly employed in oil and gas. Our survey of 1,383 offshore workers would represent 4.5% of the workforce, a substantial segment of this population.

[2] 81% said they would consider moving to a job outside of the oil and gas industry. 10% didn’t know, and 7% said no.

[3] Respondents were asked to rank job security, pay, similar work schedule, health and safety regulations and work schedule, in order of how important they were to them.

Q: Priorities for moving out of Oil and Gas
The most important is:
1 Job security (contract length, pension, etc.) 58%
2 Pay 21%
3 Similar work schedule (hours, days on/off) 11%
4 Health and safety regulations 5%
5 Similar location 2%

[4] Given the findings of this survey, Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace make the following recommendations: :

  • The skills and experiences of oil and gas workers are essential in delivering an equitable and rapid transition to renewable energy. This requires engaging a representative section of the workforce in participatory policy-making, where workers are able to help determine policy, in addition to engagement with trade unions. The rhetoric of a just transition means nothing if impacted workers are not at the heart of shaping policies that affect their livelihoods and communities. It is the only means to ensure no harm to communities currently dependent on high-carbon industries.
  • Improve job security and working conditions for workers in the oil and gas sector, to boost morale, improve quality of life, and mitigate the risk of workers leaving the energy sector altogether.
  • Address barriers to entry and conditions within the renewables industry, including creating sufficient job opportunities, to harness the skills of oil and gas workers and enable an equitable and rapid energy transition.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.