Lockdown saw offshore oil and gas workforce fall by 4,000

The number of offshore oil and gas workers fell by around 4,000 as the UK went into lockdown in March, according to official figures published today by industry body OGUK.

We continue to see some very worrying signs for employment in the sector, the OGUK says. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.
We continue to see some very worrying signs for employment in the sector, the OGUK says. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

Average weekly personnel on board installations dropped from around 11,000 on March 8 to just over 7,000 one month later, with drilling and engineering construction trades hardest hit.

OGUK’s 2020 Workforce Insight report also confirms the uptake of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by companies, particularly in the supply chain, as many braced themselves for the triple whammy of low oil and gas prices and the operational impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The organisation noted that while official figures on both on and offshore employment would not be available until next year, tentative signs are "worrying” and emphasise the need for governments, industry and regulators to collaborate to protect the jobs and skills needed to meet UK energy needs now and in the move to a lower-carbon future.

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The report follows a survey of nearly 1,400 production workers, nearly half of whom said they had been furloughed or made redundant since March and 81 per cent would consider leaving the industry.

The author of the report, OGUK workforce engagement and skills manager Alix Thom, said: “Our figures confirm the initial operational impact of the lockdown back in March this year ... numbers have risen steadily since then as industry has adopted a robust ‘Swiss cheese’ barrier model, with a range of preventative measures in place both prior to mobilisation and whilst offshore, which has helped secure more jobs and increase operations in the immediate term.

“Despite this, we continue to see some very worrying signs for employment in the sector, with the uptake of furlough and continued suppression of global energy demand impacting our industry like many others in the wider economy.

“As our report shows, the recruitment and retention of diverse and talented people will be essential as we work to support UK energy needs both now, and in a lower carbon context. A North Sea Transition Deal, supported by the UK and Scottish governments, can act as a catalyst for this future, and in so doing will provide certainty on the sustainability for the sector in difficult times.”

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