Every now and then, it’s good to be reminded just what we’re dealing with in the wake of the BP oil spill. Here’s an example: Transocean plans to, in effect, stop paying some of the rig workers injured in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The pay cuts take effect Dec. 15, according to court filings by the company.
AOL News and other outlets are reporting this story – and it’s certainly educational. For example, to illustrate just how sensitive the idea of, in effect, firing people who nearly died in your service is for a Big Oil company, Transocean made the disclosure in a one-sentence court filing. It’s difficult not to see these deep cuts in wages as payback for those workers who dared to file lawsuits. Published reports say about 60 lawsuits have been filed, and the company has only admitted that 17 workers were hurt.
The idea is to cut pay to the “less” injured to $25 per day – and this for guys who normally make in the neighborhood of $10,000 a month.
As we move away from the national spotlight and closer to court battles, we’ll start to see more hardball activity from the responsible parties. These types of companies have a long and well-documented history of intimidating and discouraging anyone who stands up to them – wearing down the other side is a favorite tactic. They just aren’t accustomed to anyone noticing.
Remember, Tansocean is the company that was asking the courts to limit liability even before it held a memorial service for its dead workers. Filing in Houston, Transocean cited (and I’m not kidding) an 1851 law that says the owner of a sunken vessel is liable only for its value after the accident. This is an obvious and old shipowner strategy of starving seamen into accepting a low-ball cram down settlement.
How has Congress responded? The U.S. House moved quickly to pass a package to amend the 1851 law and other maritime laws so families of the dead could recover more from the companies. That passed back in June, but the U.S. Senate version stalled.
And BTW, anyone wondering if those Yahoo and AOL websites can do some serious journalism of their own should check out this report: http://www.aolnews.com/gulf-oil-spill/article/transocean-is-cutting-injured-rig-workers-pay-to-25-a-day/19682777
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