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16 October 2014
Social Change: Employment 1945 to 1979

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The workers

Photograph of Steve Jeffrey wearing a hard hat.

Steve Jeffrey

Many different types of company employed people to work in the oil industry: they worked in offshore drilling, in oil production and provided key support services.

There were “core crews” who were the regular offshore workers and others who came and went according to demand. A lot of the work was contracted. The contractors could be huge international companies or small local companies. Sometimes they supplied only people, sometimes they owned their own equipment and hired that out too. This might be mobile drilling rigs or the huge floating production, storage and offloading units. These looked like ships but they remained on station for months or even years on end, and were packed with equipment for processing oil and gas.

All of these companies employed workers from Aberdeen, the rest of Scotland and Britain, and from all over the world. So long as potential employees had the necessary skills and were prepared to work in an inhospitable environment, well paid jobs were available at a time when other industries in Scotland were declining.

Offshore, working hours were normally 12 hours on and 12 hours off continuously for two weeks, followed by a two to three week rest period ashore. Offshore installations varied in size, but a typical installation housed a core crew of 50-100 men and women. Living quarters were compact but comfortable. The food was good and when off-shift, a worker could choose to work out in the gym, watch a film, play snooker, read or simply relax. The minimum age for working offshore was 18, but in practice most workers were considerably older than that.

The long working day, the harsh weather conditions, the remoteness, and the reliance on helicopter travel did not suit everyone. Others found it a challenging environment quite different from most other jobs.

•  Wages and people

•  Living conditions

•  Big money

•  Protective clothing

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