2.2 Activity 1: Bob Ballantyne
electrician – Piper survivor – community education worker
The late Bob Ballantyne survived the ‘Piper Alpha’ disaster that took the lives of 167 oil workers in 1988. Always a strong trade unionist, Bob never liked the nickname ‘Tigers’ that is used for off-shore workers. Union supporters often refused the nickname and would call themselves ‘pussycats’. Bob was critical of the ‘macho’ culture within oil companies and spoke of the way it reflects powerful anti-social values at work in the industry.
Unlike the Norwegian oil industry, the development of the UK's North Sea sector was given over to private enterprise. Bob compared the UK and Norwegian approaches to the North Sea industry as being ‘the difference between exploitation and exploration’. Bob became a prominent activist against the Occidental oil company following the explosion on Piper Alpha and testified at the Cullen enquiry, which found the company to be ‘negligent’. However, the company was never prosecuted and many of the people affected by the Piper disaster still feel that real justice was never done.
Bob went on to work in community education. He died shortly after these photographs were completed.