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Editorial comment

Back in November, I commented on the wave of discontent spreading across Europe as workers from various industries downed tools over pay and working conditions. Although some of these disputes have now been resolved, many strikes are still ongoing. As I write this, Germany’s transport sector is at a near standstill as the country experiences a ‘mega strike’ (as it has been dubbed by the German media) with staff at airports, ports, railways, buses and subways all walking out. Meanwhile, in France, national strikes over the government’s proposed pension reforms are causing chaos, particularly for the country’s oil processing industry, which is running at a fraction of normal capacity. Bloomberg reports that four of the country’s six refineries are barely operating after ExxonMobil started taking its largest facility out of service due to the fact that it cannot get crude into the site.1 This, of course, has repercussions for the global oil market.

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At a time when worker unrest is widespread, Airswift’s latest ‘Global Energy Talent Index’ report makes for particularly interesting reading. The annual energy workforce trends report suggests that job satisfaction in both the oil and gas and petrochemicals sectors is high. The petrochemicals sector, in particular, records a very settled workforce, with 57% of respondents not considering a move outside of the sector. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the global cost of living crisis, remuneration was listed as having the most positive impact on job satisfaction, followed by factors including benefits, job excitement and flexible working conditions.

However, there are some red flags within the report. Airswift warns that the oil and gas sector risks losing its multi-skilled, mobile workforce to other industries. Ilda Andaluz, Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources at Varel Energy Solutions, notes: “The digitalisation and diversification of industry portfolios means the workforce increasingly has skills synergies with other sectors, such as technology, that make them appealing.” 80% of respondents have been approached about another job in the past year, and 85% are considering switching to another role, with renewables (49%) top of the wish list. Career progression is the main driver for a change of jobs, while interest in the wider industry and ESG are also key factors. And on the topic of the environment, 21% of oil and gas workers say their employers are not doing enough to enable the energy transition, which could impact efforts to attract and retain an ESG-conscious workforce. The majority of respondents welcomed changes as a result of the energy transition, with 38% noting that they enjoy their role more as a result. Interestingly, responses in the petrochemical sector were a little more split, with 37% of respondents enjoying their role more as a result of changes brought about by the energy transition, and 20% enjoying it less.

There is also a warning that recruitment and retention have been casualties of recent inflation and supply chain costs, while investments in technology and digitalisation have also been negatively impacted, particularly in the petrochemicals sector. And there are some concerning statistics about the gender divide within the report. In the oil and gas sector, 36% of female respondents said that their views are listened to and have an impact on company policy (vs 46% of men), and in the petrochemicals sector 42% of men feel comfortable expressing their values and views at work compared to just 16% of women. These are statistics that obviously need immediate attention as the energy sector seeks to expand its recruitment and retention efforts to improve gender equality.

  1. GRAHAM, R., ‘French Refining Is Barely Running as Strikes Enter Week Four’, Bloomberg UK, (27 March 2023).

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