Workers 'deserve so much more' from Exxon

Fawley workers ballot as oil giant Exxon risks fuel supplies with ‘insulting’ pay proposal

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Fuel supplies to airports and filling stations could be hit this spring should workers at the giant Fawley refinery on the UK’s south coast take strike action over an `insulting’ pay offer, Unite has said.

A ballot of 100 workers, around one third of all contractors on the site, gets underway today (February 21) with strike action poised to begin in April.  With some of the workers providing safety critical services, strike action could lead to shut downs across the plant.

Unite members employed by three contractors on the Fawley site – Trant Engineering Limited, Veolia Services and Altrad Services – are ‘stunned’ by the 2.5 per cent pay offer for the next two years when the real cost of living is running at 7.8 per cent and expected to climb higher.

Unite is pressing for a one year deal that is in line with inflation.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The employers need to take back this insulting pay offer, which is actually a cut, and think again.  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.

“This workforce did all that was asked of them by Exxon during the pandemic, changing shifts and losing out on vital overtime payments,” she added. “They deserve so much 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.

“Unite is totally committed to improving the jobs, pay and conditions of our members so our members at the Fawley site have our full backing in their fight for fair wages.”

Unite’s Veolia members carry out safety critical work such as the removal of sewage and hydrocarbons and emergency works.  They were on the site during Storm Eunice to maintain safety while the site was operating with essential workers only.  Other members are involved in providing fuel to airports for aircraft as well as petrol and diesel for garage forecourts.

During the pandemic, Unite’s members altered their working patterns at the request of Exxon in the process forgoing overtime payments that make up an important part of their income.

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.

“Exxon and the employers know what needs to be done to avert a strike this spring. Table a respectful offer to this workforce so we can focus on the planned redevelopment of the Fawley site and start the essential work of harmonising pay and conditions across the trades.  We are not prepared to put up any longer with a situation where workers fall behind on wages year on year and do not enjoy the same full sick pay as managers.”

Exxon, Fawley’s owners, is the largest US oil and gas giant.  In 2021 it netted an income of £6.75 billion, its highest since 2017 and driven by the high global costs of oil and gas.

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.

By Shaun Noble

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