Strikes escalate at Fawley refinery

Heavy-handed policing deepens tensions as workers continue striking over Exxon’s bonus payments refusal

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Members of Unite employed in engineering construction roles at Fawley oil refinery in Hampshire will step up strike action in a dispute over bonus payments.

The 130-strong workforce, who are employed by three contractors Altrad, Bilfinger and Enerveo, are seeking a bonus payment of £2.37 an hour, the maximum allowed under the relevant industrial agreement (National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry [NAECI]).

The Fawley refinery is operated by ExxonMobil, which last month recorded a quarterly profit of £17.3 billion.

Tensions in the dispute have dramatically increased due to intimidatory behaviour by Hampshire police and false allegations made the employer.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “ExxonMobil, which operates the Fawley site, is making eye-watering profits. Paying our members the bonus they are seeking will not make a single dent in its overflowing coffers. But instead of coming to the table, the employers at Fawley have been spreading untruths about our members. This is yet another case of irresponsible employers acting on greed not need.

“It is also seriously alarming to learn that Hampshire police have interfered in lawful, peaceful industrial action,” she added. “This is an abuse of their role and can only serve to deepen tensions in this dispute.

“Unite will not stand for company lies or interference by the police. Our members at Fawley can rest assured that they will receive Unite’s 100 per cent support throughout this dispute.”

On Friday (November 25) the workers were unable to stage a lawful picket due to the presence of approximately 60 police officers who prevented the pickets speaking to drivers of vehicles entering the site.

The show of force by Hampshire Police increased following a letter sent to the union and the police force by Richard Bannister, a human resources business partner working for contractors at Fawley. The letter made a series of unfounded allegations about the conduct of the pickets.

The first week of strike action caused considerable delays and disruptions to major construction projects at Fawley. The employers also attempted to undermine the strike by employing agency workers on rates far above what the current workforce receives.

The workers are in their second week of strike action (Monday 28 November – Friday 2 December). This will be followed by a 48 hour strike beginning on Thursday 8 December, a week of strike action from Monday 12 December and 72 hours of strike action from Monday 19 December.

Unite regional officer Malcolm Bonnett added, “The strike action is causing considerable disruption and delays across Fawley but this dispute has been caused by the contractors and client refusing to pay a bonus, to counteract the cost of living crisis.

“The untruths told by employers and the excessive police presence has redoubled our members’ determination to secure a fair settlement. The employers need to return to the negotiating table and make a decent offer.”

By Barckley Sumner