by Tim Lezard Unions have condemned the government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety. The government yesterday ignored the recommendations of the transport select committee that an inquiry should be held after five …

Super-Puma-helicopter-150x150by Tim Lezard

Unions have condemned the government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety.

The government yesterday ignored the recommendations of the transport select committee that an inquiry should be held after five North Sea emergency ditchings since 2009, with 20 deaths as a result of two fatal accidents in April 2009 and August 2013.

More than 3,000 workers supported the union’s Back Home Safe campaign which detailed a crisis in confidence over helicopter safety. But the government said it had not found “any evidence to suggest that safety is being compromised as a result of commercial pressure from the industry”.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “This morning’s published response from the UK government is, ‘there is nothing to see here, there’s no safety issues and its business as usual for helicopter transfers in the North Sea’, which given the recent history is absolutely scandalous.

“The government states UK operations are as safe as our Norwegian counterparts who have not had one fatality as a result of helicopter transfers since 1997, yet the UK has suffered 38 deaths in the same timeframe, with 20 in the last five years alone – if that doesn’t suggest a safety problem then I don’t know what does.

“A full public inquiry would allow a much needed, forensic analysis of why we repeatedly encounter these problems with helicopter transfers serving the UK continental shelf and go some way to re-building the shattered confidence of the workforce.

“Instead the UK government has washed its hands of the problem by rejecting the recommendations of the Transport select committee and it has turned its back on the 3,000 workers who supported our Back Home Safe campaign for safer helicopter transfers.

“Our fight for a safer offshore industry will continue unabated – we’re simply not prepared to see the lives of working people compromised, even if the UK government is.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is appalled that the government have point blank refused to hold the full independent and public inquiry into helicopter safety that has been an absolute core demand from the workforce that we represent.  An inquiry would have gone some way toward dispelling existing concerns which continue to undermine workforce confidence.

“The failure to agree to a public inquiry leads to the obvious question, “just what have you got to hide?” This response from the government to the Transport Committee represents a complete failure to get to grips with the safety issue in the offshore industry and will send out a wholly negative signal.

“RMT will continue to fight for a public inquiry and will continue to support the families of those who have lost loved-ones in our industry. The fight for the safety of offshore workers goes on.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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