Five SCJs line up for Transocean’s Scottish employment dispute

The Supreme Court has convened five justices to hear a dispute over holiday entitlement for offshore workers, a case that could have implications for holiday allowance for all employees.

Supreme Court justices Lords Hope, Brown, Mance, Kerr and Wilson will hear arguments over two days in the matter of Russell and ors v Transocean International Resources and ors from 26 October.

The case began in 2007 when a group of North Sea offshore workers challenged their holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations.

Trade unions Unite and the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC) – the offshore energy branch of the RMT – have supported the workers in their challenge since it began in 2007.

At the Scottish High Court and Scottish Court of Session the unions were represented by Thompsons partner Rory McPherson, who instructed Brian Napier QC of Hastie Stables for Unite and Matrix Chambers’ Aidan O’Neill for OILC.

At the Supreme Court the unions will challenge the Court of Session’s decision to rule in favour of Transocean by combining their legal spend to instruct Matrix Chambers’ Tom Linden QC in place of the two previous silks.

Transocean, meanwhile, has instructed solicitor advocate Michael Jones QC of Edinburgh firm Simpson & Marwick.

The offshore workers’ shifts, which require them to work two weeks on and two weeks off, see them work 26 weeks in a year along with a ’field break’ of 26 weeks, during which they were not required to work or be available for work. 

Their claim was that their entitlement under the Working Time Regulations to four weeks paid holiday should be taken out of their 26 weeks working time, not from their 26 weeks non-working time.

If their claim is successful it could have implications for other professionals such as teachers, who may no longer be forced to take vacations during school holidays.