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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I feel I have been treated badly by my previous employer.

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Hello There,
I feel I have been treated badly by my previous employer. Its quite a complicated case as they are an international firm. There are lots of things that I believe were against the law such as running out of drinking water, poor food, 12hour working days with no breaks, no malaria protection. Abandonment of personnel on their way home to the UK.
Below is a letter I sent to them, I have since quit my job as I feel I did not receive a satisfactory response.
I would like to know if there is anything I can do to get any kind of compensation for the way I have been treated.
Thanks, *****
Dear *****,
I am writing to you to give you an insight of what life is like working on the rig that you are responsible for. I feel the need to write this letter as the managers offshore are not in a position to say what needs to be said for fear of losing their jobs. I do not blame them given the recent cull that took place under your supervision.
Firstly, to say the local workforce is poor would be a huge understatement. Very few of the locals have any real offshore experience and to add to this most of them struggle to understand spoken English. This puts a huge strain on the rig and the expats who are responsible for supervising them. I am an AD yet I spend most of my working day around the rotary table roughnecking, doing basic jobs taking up valuable time that should be spent on my own duties. The same can be said for the other AD’s and even Toolpushers who find themselves roughnecking. This should not be the case. I have worked in different countries in Africa for 5years and never have I worked with such a poor local work force. How many of the locals passed the CEB tests that they were required to take prior to employment, did this not raise alarm bells?
To make matters worse we do not even have enough Roughnecks to run a dual activity rig, we would be struggling if we had the same number of expat Roughnecks. We are being pushed by the client to run dual activity at full speed as they are paying for a full work force which we simply do not have. I cannot speak in detail about the deck crews’ problems but from what I gather the situation is no better on deck than it is on the rig floor. I understand that Repsol are paying for an expat roughneck and crane operator for each crew – why did we not get these men at the start of the contract with Repsol? I was on-board for 3weeks before our crew received an expat roughneck, most of the most serious dual activity had taken place by then (Top Hole). I know that the section leaders were reminding you about the lack of men. Why have we been running so short staffed for so long? For my first week on-board my crew had only four Roughnecks, we should have a minimum of six to run full dual activity. The Derrickman on my crew never did get a replacement for his assistant who left at the very start of the trip, instead he had to struggle on with a local ‘trainee’ who has a grand total of 6months offshore experience. Perhaps the fact that you have no drilling background you do not understand how difficult our jobs are made by having such a poor/short workforce. I simply cannot understand how Seadrill has the audacity to preach safety to us on a daily basis yet our very own rig manager exposes us to much higher levels of risk than necessary by not even getting the manning levels right. This lands more work on our plates, gives us less time to do our own jobs, increasing the chances of mistakes, increasing the chances of people getting hurt. It seems Seadrill safety is only for when it suits Seadrill.
I am surprised that the few extra expats that we did eventually get onboard the rig came at all given the rate you are offering…$120/day for a Roughneck - you could earn more money stacking shelfs in a supermarket at home. It seems the Brander personnel get treated even worse than Seadrill personnel (something I never thought possible). They receive terrible rates and have now been informed that they will have to pay their own flights home should they need to get off the rig. Is it true that you are refusing to pay the Brander guys overtime? Quite ironic really seen as most of them were working on your BOP desperately trying to get it ready to run on time – working hard putting in 15/16hour days. Whilst I am on the subject of the BOP; this is the second Well in a row where the BOP hasn’t been ready to run on time. I believe on both occasions that this was mainly down to not having essential parts on the rig. I think you have been lucky, particularly on this Well that Top Hole took as long as it did to reduce downtime from weeks to just a couple of days.
Last trip back my crew picked up an incorrect stand, we were informed that you were livid with us and wanted answers as to why it happened. We repeatedly get told that we need to be ‘accountable’ and stop the job when something isn’t right. We did just that and caught our mistake yet we were crucified for it. We didn’t even run the stand through the rotary because we caught it in time. No matter how many more paper exercises Seadrill creates it will not stop human error. People by nature make mistakes. We did not have enough time to do our own jobs properly because we were too stretched. That will not be the last mistake that happens on-board unless you change how you are running things.
Food on-board is horrendous. I am not a fussy eater and neither are any of the colleagues that I work with. We have all worked in Africa before and know not to expect Michelin star food. However, I have not met a Seadrill employee or third party employee who has experienced such poor food on an oil rig before, there are guys on here who have worked all over the world for many years and this is the worst food they have had to date, myself included. The quality of the food is not the only issue, the lack of it is just as much of a concern. Last hitch we ran out of drinking water, milk, butter, condiments, tissue paper, toilet paper – you name it we didn’t have it. We didn’t have any squash, juice or fizzy drinks. There was nothing to eat in the galley should you wish to eat at any time other than the opening times. The breakfast offered was pitiful - no beans, no bacon, no sausages, no pancakes, no mushrooms, toast, tomatoes, yoghurt, hash browns, limited cereal (no milk most of the time), limited spreads, no butter, no tea of coffee making facilities, very limited bread the list goes on and on. I have attached some pictures I shot on Saturday 10th February at breakfast time when the galley was open to give you an idea of what was on offer, the pictures also show all of the fridges that are available for the crew to get water from. As you will see all of the fridges are empty. How do you repeatedly run out of water, there is no excuse for that. I could have taken the same photos everyday of my hitch, Saturday certainly wasn’t a one off. The cleanliness of the accommodation is terrible, (I’ve attached a couple of pictures depicting a small snapshot of this) if this rig was operating in the North Sea and QHSE inspectors came out I would imagine that the rig would be have been shut down until it was cleaned up. It is a daily occurrence to have diarrhoea, no surprise given the malnutrition and dirtiness of the place. To add insult to injury we were informed that you would no longer accept STAR/OBS cards which had anything to do with the state of the food or the accommodation. Wow. Oh, and whilst we are on the Subject of STAR/OBS cards do your superiors know that you cut off our internet for 24hours if we fail to submit a STAR/OBS card each shift? How childish.
Some of the Seadrill expats have been told on previous journeys to the rig that they were responsible for paying for their own meals upon arrival in Port Gentil. Some Seadrill employees chose to pay for their own hotel in Port Gentil after seeing the hotel that Seadrill had booked (bed bugs, mosquitos & uncleanliness were some of the reasons given). Some Seadrill expats have been flown home via African airline companies through cities in Africa completely unnecessarily, myself included – why? To save Seadrill a few pennies? I recognise it can sometimes be difficult to co-ordinate logistics in African countries but this rig has been down here for some months, there is no excuse now.
You fired Colin the OIM, the general consensus on-board seems to be that he was fired because he was raising a flag with his superiors to try and make conditions on the rig better – is this just speculation or is there truth behind it? Complacency was the reason you gave him for his dismissal. Colin was my OIM for nearly 5 years and I can assure you he was not complacent. Colin was a stickler for following Seadrill rules and he would come down on people hard who did not comply. He was a fair OIM and would stand up for his men.
I have no insight into what budgets the technical department receives but from an outsider’s point of view the apparent lack of money being spent on spare parts seems worrying. We are repeatedly robbing parts off things to carry on limping along. A classic example that springs to mind is the fact that we only have two sets of BX4 elevators on the rig, a rig that is running dual ops, last trip we very nearly got down time because one set broke but we just managed to mend them in time. It won’t be long before they catch us out again and I am sure there are many other similar examples on the rig, perhaps the spare annular piston for the BOP that had to be airfreighted to the rig whilst the BOP was on deck? We repeatedly run out of PPE - our ‘last line of defence’. I can’t remember the last time that we had rags on the rig. VHF/UHF radios are very rare items to come across on the rig, it is very common to have no way of communicating with the roughnecks on the rig floor from the doghouse except from opening the door and shouting to be heard - what a ridiculous position to be in on a 5th/6th generation drillship, not to mention how dangerous it is. The rig did have a handful of new radios come out a few months back but they did not work on the frequencies of the driller’s built in radio and there was by no means enough to make a difference anyway. I must make it clear that I do not blame the sections leaders on the rig for this as I know that they are always trying to order what we need and I am sure they have the emails to back their requests up, it is somebody above them that knocks their orders back!
I fully understand Seadrill is not in a good financial position and has to make cuts as a result but there has to be a line where you stop scrimping on things. You are endangering your workforce by neglecting the rig and its personnel. We constantly get safety preached to us but in reality, is means nothing when you have a Rig Manager who will not employ a good enough workforce, provide us with the tools we need to do our jobs, supply us with basic essentials and stand up to the client for us when necessary. I guarantee that if the industry continues to pick up as it looks like it will you will be losing lots of very experienced personnel from your rig to different drilling companies.
I struggle to comprehend why you are allowing this rig to gain a bad reputation whilst Seadrill are trying so hard to pick up contracts elsewhere. Repsol are a new client for the rig and they are not getting a very good impression. News travels fast on an oil rig and the feedback I have heard certainly isn’t good. It’s not just Seadrill employees who suffer for all of the reasons I have outlined in this letter but Repsol and all of the other clients on-board do to. The oil industry is a small world and people talk.
I doubt this letter will have any effect, however as I said at the beginning I feel for the sake of your employees that somebody needs to tell you what it is really like working on this rig under your supervision.
I must stress that I have written this letter expressing my opinions which have been formulated from what I see and experience on your rig. I have no doubt that all of the Seadrill expats on-board (and third party for that matter) would agree with most if not everything I have said but it is not my place to voice other people’s opinions without them knowing so. I hope your response reflects this accordingly.
Nick South
Assistant Driller

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

How long have you worked there for?

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Hi Ben.
Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Hi Ben, I ahem already paid a deposit of £38 so I don't really want to spend a further £42 at this point thanks.

Ok no problem, could you please provide the information requested so I can help you

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
I worked for Seadrill from June 2013 to November 2016 when I got made redundant. I got re-employed in June 2017 and handed my notice in April 2018.

OK thank you for your response. Leave it with me for now and I will review the relevant information and laws and will get back to you as soon as I can. Please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you

Thanks for your patience. In the circumstances your only claim would be for constructive dismissal, which is where you are forced to leave due to a serious breach of contract by the employer. However, in order to claim you would need to have worked there continuously for at least 2 years and your current length of service was less than a year.

There are certain exceptions, for example if you were serious health and safety breaches in the public interest and you tried to resolve them but were forced to leave as a result. The issue is whether a tribunal will agree that they were serious enough and that they were in the public interest.

At this stage, the best way around this would be to approach the employer and state that you are thinking of making a claim for constructive dismissal on health and safety grounds and ask them to consider a settlement to avoid that. They may not want this going public and for them it may make more sense to settle with you, rather than having to defend a claim in the open. So at this stage you have nothing to lose by at least approaching them to discuss the possibility of this. However, if they reuse, you have the option of considering whether to try and claim anyway – it is free so the risks are relatively low for you.

Please take a quick second to leave a positive rating for the service so far by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars above. I can continue answering follow up questions and in particular can also discuss the steps you need to take if you had to claim. There is no extra cost for this - leaving your rating now will not close the question and means we can still continue this discussion. Thank you

Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you

Thank you. Before a person can make a claim in the employment tribunal, they would be required to participate in mandatory early conciliation through the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

The purpose of this process is to allow ACAS to mediate between the claimant and respondent to agree on an out of court settlement in order to avoid the need for legal action in tribunal. The respondent does not have to engage in these discussions, or if they do and the talks are unsuccessful, the claimant will be issued with a certificate allowing them to make a claim.

However, if a settlement is reached, the claimant would agree not to proceed with the claim in return for the agreed financial settlement. Other terms can also be agreed as part of the settlement, such as an agreed reference.

To initiate the conciliation procedure ACAS can be contacted online by filling in the following form (https://ec.acas.org.uk/Submission/SingleClaimantPage), or by phone on 0300(###) ###-####

If the conciliation process was not successful and you then wanted to make a formal claim in tribunal, you can do so here:

https://www.employmenttribunals.service.gov.uk/apply

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
Thanks very much for your help Ben.

you are most welcome