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    Project Jigsaw falling apart, says union leader

    News // October 20, 2000
    The seven trade unions leading the campaign against BP's plan to replacerescue vessels in the North Sea with helicopters have welcomed the oil giant's admission their proposals were fatally flawed.

    Rab Wilson, secretary of the Inter-Union Offshore Oil Committee (IUOOC), acknowledged BP's public acceptance that its original helicopter proposals wereincapable of providing adequate safety cover to offshore workers.

    But he called on the company to go one stage further and to abandon ProjectJigsaw completely.

    "BP's announcement of a two-year extension of their helicopter trials representsa major U-turn in direction and, we hope, the first signs that Project Jigsaw isfalling part," said Mr Wilson. "But let's be quite clear: this only happened because of massive public, political and union opposition to their plans".

    "Nobody should be fooled into thinking BP has done this as a result of theircosmetic consultation process with offshore workers and contractors. "The fact is the company has shown a high degree of arrogance and hypocrisy from the start in developing and seeking to implement Project Jigsaw. It has only been forced to reconsider its position because of the sheer weight of opposition to its crazy proposals from all quarters."

    He added: "Senior management are beginning to see sense by agreeing to commission a study of multi-role vessels," said Mr Wilson. "But we still have along way to go before BP accepts that helicopters, regardless of type or modifications made, can ever offer a virtual stand-alone solution to North Seasafety cover."

    Mr Wilson said BP's announcement amounted to little more than a stay ofexecution for existing safety arrangements provided by standby vessels, anddeclared the campaign against Project Jigsaw would continue unabated. "We should never forget that despite BP's claim to the contrary, Project Jigsaw is a cost-cutting exercise by a company that makes multi-billion profits," he said.

    Mr Wilson, who recently wrote to British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott pointing out BP's plans could jeopardise the safety of over 20,000 offshore workers and the jobs of 6,000 seafarers and on-shore employees in related industries, called again onthe Government to carry out a comprehensive industry-wide review of safety cover in the North Sea.

    "If BP manages to railroad through its helicopter plans, the other oil companieswill undoubtedly follow suit," said Mr Wilson. "This would result ultimately in the safety of over 20,000 offshore workers in the North Sea being compromised and the jobs of almost 3,000 seafarers and 3,000 on-shore workers in related support industriesbeing put at risk.

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