UN labour agency reports major job losses in oil and gas industry

Buffeted by changing corporate structures and privatization, the workforce in the world’s oil and gas industries has shrunk dramatically in the past 25 years, according to a report released today by the International Labour Organization (ILO). In the United States alone, employment in the oil and gas industries slumped from a peak of 1.65 million workers in 1982 to roughly 640,000 by 2000, according to the report. In Canada, 2,250 jobs were lost in 1998 when oil drilling activity fell by 10 per cent. “The situation was equally bleak in other regions,” the agency said, citing job losses in Norway, China and the United Kingdom. The decline in numbers spotlights the vital need for good industrial relations within the industry, according to the ILO. Issues such as freedom of association and the right to organize assume greater importance when workers face the “often-used argument for restricting the right to strike in the oil and gas industries when they are deemed essential services.” Governments in several oil- and gas-producing countries have imposed restrictions on freedom of association, according to the report, which points to examples in several countries, including Nigeria, where workers have complained that the Government violates their basic rights. “According to complainants, the Nigerian Trade Union Act did not allow workers to form and join the union of their own choosing but obliged them to join the union specified by law,” the ILO noted. “The Act, by setting at 50 the number of workers required to form a trade union, was obviously intended to prevent workers from organizing their own unions.” The news is not all bad, however, according to Yasuhiko Kamakura, an ILO expert in the oil and gas sector. “These industries are strategic and have special working conditions,” he said. “Typical earnings worldwide are reported to be higher on average than those for any other industry and working hours tend to be shorter and more flexible.” read more