The union said that 100 workers, or about a third of all contractors, at the refinery were voting on potential strike action in April after their employers had offered what they described as an ‘insulting’ pay proposal.
Fawley is the UK’s largest refinery and produces about a fifth of the UK’s transport fuel needs, processing about 270,000 barrels of crude oil every day. The workers involved, described by Unite as “providing safety-critical services, meaning strike action could lead to shutdowns across the plant” are employed by three contractors on the Fawley site – Trant Engineering Limited, Veolia Services and Altrad Services.
ExxonMobil hopeful of a swift resolution
A spokesperson for ExxonMobil commented: “We understand this matter relates to ongoing pay negotiations between members of the Unite union and their respective employers, which provide third-party contracting services to our operation at Fawley. We hope that all parties can work together to reach a swift and amicable resolution.”
It is understood that the pay offer is 2.5 per cent for the next two years when the real cost of living is currently running at around 7.8 per cent and expected to climb higher still. The union is calling for a one-year pay deal in line with inflation.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the union, said: “This workforce did all that was asked of them by Exxon during the pandemic, changing shifts and losing out on vital overtime payments. They deserve so much more than this from Exxon, which is making money from oil and gas hand over fist but is now pressurising the employers to cut our members’ wages. This is just unacceptable.
“Our members have mounting bills to pay like everyone else, and with runaway inflation there is no way we will accept a derisory 2.5 percent for this workforce.”
Unite regional officer Malcolm Bonnett added: “These skilled workers put in a serious shift in during the pandemic to ensure that Fawley stayed resilient. They changed their working patterns and lost a lot in wages so they’re totally stunned to find that this is how Exxon wants the employers to repay them.
Unite’s Veolia members carry out safety critical work and emergency works and were also on site during Storm Eunice to maintain safety while the site was operating with essential workers only.
“Exxon and the employers know what needs to be done to avert a strike this spring,” Malcolm continued. “Table a respectful offer to this workforce so we can focus on the planned redevelopment of the Fawley site.”