Unite, the UK’s largest union, will ballot members on what could be the biggest ever industrial action in the North Sea, as workers push for a bigger share of the windfall following the recent rally in crude prices.

The union said on Friday it would ballot 2,500 offshore workers across more than one hundred platforms after members rejected a final offer from the Offshore Contractors Association, the body representing the UK’s oil and gas contracting industry.

The move comes as workers push for greater returns now that the oil price has recovered after being squeezed by companies during the downturn.

Unite is seeking a 4 per cent increase in basic pay plus various increases in allowances including sickness benefit, nightshifts and evening meals. Members will be asked to vote on industrial action and action short of strike action such as an overtime ban.

“Workers understand that over the last few years there has been a downturn in the oil industry and suffered a lot of pay cuts and redundancies,” said Unite regional officer John Boland. “They are looking for a reasonable pay increase to make up the ground they’ve lost.”

Earlier this week Shell announced it would reduce the amount of time workers spend at sea and change its rota system to two weeks on, three weeks off for employees and contractors following pressure from unions.

Unite members in July overwhelmingly rejected a final offer from the OCA of a 3.3 per cent pay increase over eight months and a 2.5 per cent increase for 2019-20. The union had recommended members accept the deal.

Paul Atkinson, chief executive of the OCA said in a statement that the body had worked with union officials “to create a sustainable employment model that provides the workforce with greater stability whilst also improving the utilisation of resources.”

“We are disappointed Unite has decided to ballot their members for industrial action but it’s important to remember that our offer remains on the table,” he added.

The ballot will begin on September 28 and run to November 2.

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