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Oil rig workers claim unfair treatment in a system 'rotten to the core'

Posted: Mon Jun 29, 2020 7:28 pm
by Newsman
Oil rig workers claim the industry is “rotten to the core”, angry that most senior jobs on a newly-arrived rig have been handed to foreigners.

Stuff spoke to seven experienced rig workers overlooked for positions on the Archer Emerald rig, which has arrived off the Taranaki coast to drill up to five exploratory wells for the Austrian-based company OMV New Zealand.

It’s the second example in less than a year of visiting rigs being granted permission to bring in offshore workers over the protests of locals.

Rig workers claim it’s part of a longstanding pattern where Kiwis miss out, or take lower-ranked positions with the best jobs always going to foreign workers - despite them being advertised here.

The boss of the Kiwi recruitment company which hires locals on to the rigs argues it's a case of perception, rather than reality.

David Bishop, managing director of New Plymouth-based Atlas Recruitment, said about 75 per cent of jobs on the Emerald had gone to locals.

“The proof is in the pudding. That perception is there - but it is just factually incorrect, period," Bishop said.

The law says companies can recruit overseas only if they show there are no suitable New Zealanders available.

The workers say there’s an oversupply of experienced locals because of the Covid-19 lockdown and New Zealand land rigs suspending work. All of the workers asked to remain anonymous out of concern over being blacklisted.

They have drawn support from the largest union representing rig workers, who say the government must make changes.

The 24 roles that Immigration NZ gave permission for Archer Emerald to hire offshore are all senior postings: two senior toolpushers, three night toolpushers, three drillers, five assistant drillers, three derrickmen, three rig electricians and five rig mechanics.

Bishop said only 15 of the roles had actually been filled - nine were being used as a contingency in case replacements were needed during the rig’s campaign here.

Stuff spoke to two senior toolpushers, a driller, a derrickman, two electricians and a rig mechanic who all claimed to have the qualifications and skills for the jobs but weren’t even interviewed.

Some received a rejection email from Atlas saying: “We have received many applications from well-qualified and experienced candidates.”

When the rig's arrival was announced in June 2019, Archer Emerald business development manager Kevin Cowieson said staff would be a combination of New Zealand and overseas employees.

Read more: ... o-the-core

Re: Oil rig workers claim unfair treatment in a system 'rotten to the core'

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2020 6:58 am
by Michael_Seman
Wouldn't the foreigners have to do 14 days quarantine?

Re: Oil rig workers claim unfair treatment in a system 'rotten to the core'

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2020 3:55 pm
by geophix
Michael_Seman wrote:
Thu Jul 02, 2020 6:58 am
Wouldn't the foreigners have to do 14 days quarantine?
Would it make much difference? 14 days pass really fast. :)

Re: Oil rig workers claim unfair treatment in a system 'rotten to the core'

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2020 6:28 pm
by GuyM
Michael_Seman wrote:
Thu Jul 02, 2020 6:58 am
Wouldn't the foreigners have to do 14 days quarantine?

Right now, everyone has to undertake 14 days of managed isolation (at a hotel); following a few lapses there's also strict enforcement of two negative tests (day 3 and day 12, IIRC); quarantine is a more strict regime for those whop are symptomatic or have tested positive. The Health Minister just lost his job over those lapses, and the subsequent fallout.

There's zero detected community spread in NZ - all 18 current active cases were trapped as part of those border controls.

Entry is restricted to New Zealand permanent residents or citizens, so those with fixed term visas are only allowed in under exceptional circumstances. One example of that is the film crew for the new Avatar movies. These have to be specifically sanctioned by immigration and MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment)

The issue here is likely to be returning NZ citizens or residents who have lost their oilfield service jobs overseas, and returned home.

After the "first wave" of returnees prior to lockdown that's broadly what we are seeing here now - people coming back for compassionate reasons (terminally sick relatives) or because they are unemployed. Given the current state of the oil industry it would seem likely that those who have not been active on the (very limited) domestic NZ drilling circuit but have been based out of here for international and ex-pat work may have

a) returned home and
b) have deeper and more diverse experience that others

Right now NZ Immigration and MBIE are pretty eagle-eyed on this stuff; the Avatar crew put this right under the spotlight and in an election year no-one in immigration or MBIE would risk any embarrassment to the government - that would be a pretty rapid way to become unemployed.

I guess its possible that there's some attempt at manipulation but if so you'd expect the unions to be on the case very fast; so far, nothing.

So - on balance I suspect the companies position is accurate - there are not foreigners coming in an "taking our jobs", just an oversupply of highly experienced Kiwis and a desire on their part to work in a country that has (outside of border controls) ZERO COVID-19 restrictions.

Yes, zero restrictions.

Everything is operating as normal with the exception of international travel, and has been for 4-5 weeks.