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Union plans offshore safety rally

Source BBC News@

Super Puma helicopter wreckPart of the helicopter wreckage has been recovered but the search for the flight data recorder continues

The RMT has said it plans a rally in Aberdeen to press for improved safety in the offshore oil and gas industry.

The rally was announced after a protest by the union outside helicopter operator CHC's base was called off.

RMT said it suspended the protest after reaching an agreement with oil industry employers on union access to offshore installations.

The industry body Oil and Gas UK confirmed that a "constructive discussion" had taken place.

The union's concerns about offshore safety follow Friday's helicopter crash off Shetland.

Four people died when a Super Puma AS332 L2 went down close to shore on a flight to Shetland's Sumburgh Airport from the Borgsten Dolphin rig.

The families of victims of offshore accidents are expected to be at the rally, where the union said it would repeat calls for an improved safety regime.

'Central issue'

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: "Following talks with the employers tonight we have secured a massive breakthrough on our core demand of workplace access which will enable us to build an organisation that can fight for real collective improvements to offshore working conditions including on the central issue of safety."

The rally is to be held outside the union's Crown Street offices at 11:00 BST.

The union had been concerned that the suspension of all flights by Super Puma helicopters would prevent union officials from keeping in touch with the offshore workforce.

Oil and Gas UK said it was able to offer reassurance that it would attempt to allow contact to continue.

In a statement the industry body said: "During a constructive discussion both parties expressed their support for the existing memorandum of understanding regarding trade union access to offshore installations through the inter union offshore oil committee (IUOOC) procedure which allows trade union officials to visit the offshore workforce.

"It was recognised in the current circumstances of significantly reduced helicopter capacity that offshore visits would not be feasible so the possibility of interim arrangements will be explored."

Cause of crash

Later on Wednesday, talks involving key industry figures are expected to discuss whether the suspension of Super Puma flights should continue.

The Helicopter Safety Steering Group will decide whether enough information about the cause of the crash is known.

The search for debris following the Shetland crash has yet to locate the helicopter's flight data recorder.

Another union representing offshore workers, Unite, has said no decision to resume Super Puma flights should be taken until the "black box" is found and analysed.

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said: "The Super Puma fleet must remain grounded at the very least until the black box from Friday's crash is recovered and its data reveals the cause of this catastrophe - this isn't up for debate."

He added: "This is a critical moment for the offshore industry and if these companies are serious about even starting to rebuild its shattered reputation then they will listen to, work with and protect the one resource it cannot do without - its people."

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