Union brands offshore company’s mandatory vaccine policy ‘draconian’

Canadian Natural Resources said staff cannot return to offshore platforms unless they have been vaccinated.

Union brands offshore company’s mandatory vaccine policy ‘draconian’ iStock
Draconian: Unite the Union has slammed a decision to introduce mandatory vaccinations for offshore workers.

A union has called on the Scottish Government to intervene after an offshore contractor introduced mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for workers. 

Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) introduced the policy on January 14, with staff told they cannot return to any of the company’s offshore platforms, including Ninian Central, Ninian South, and Tiffany in the North Sea, unless they have been vaccinated. 

Contracting firms working on these platforms including Petrofac, Aker, EnerMech, Bilfinger and Global E&C, are also not allowed to send staff unless they have been vaccinated, according to Unite the Union.

The move has been branded “draconian” by the union, who said “education and communication” should instead be used to encourage workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine. 

It is understood CNR will make exceptions from the policy for workers with verified medical or religious reasons against vaccination.

Unite has confirmed that it is looking at legal action against any company seeking to pursue a “jab or job” policy.

John Boland, Unite industrial officer, said: “Our position is that we support workers getting the Covid-19 vaccination but we are strenuously opposed to any mandatory vaccination policy.

“Instead, education and communication should be used to encourage people to get the vaccine instead of workers in essence being told it’s a jab or your job. This position is supported by Oil and Gas UK, and to our knowledge no other operator or contractor has enforced such a policy.

“We will not hesitate to challenge any employer including CNR that disciplines or dismisses our members for exercising their right not to be vaccinated including the consideration of legal action.”

A spokesperson for CNR said: “CNR International has implemented extensive measures to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of Covid-19 in our operations, including a vaccination policy.

“Our decisions are made with the health and safety of all company staff and individuals working with CNR International in mind.

“We have been liaising closely with contracting companies to encourage their offshore employees not yet vaccinated to join the majority of the offshore crew who are. This includes providing access to medical professionals, help in addressing any concerns or logistical barriers to vaccination, and granting exceptions, where appropriate.

“To date, the response to this approach has been positive, with a significant majority of our offshore workforce now vaccinated.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said vaccination “remains critical in the fight against Covid-19″ and, while it is strongly recommended, it is not mandatory and remains a personal choice whether to do so.

“Each employer will need to consider their own specific circumstances and make sure their approach is consistent with their obligations and relevant legislation,” the spokesperson added.

“Our advice is that employers maintain a voluntary approach and encourage vaccination.

“Employment law is a reserved matter and the Scottish Government has no direct power to intervene in contractual issues between companies and their employees.”