A ballot of 100 workers – or around one third of all contractors – at the Fawley refinery in the New Forest gets underway today with strike action poised to begin in April that 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 – say they are are ‘stunned’ by a 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.
Now the union is pressing for a one-year deal that is in line with inflation from the site’s owner’s, Exxon.
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. 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.’
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.
Malcolm Bonnett, Unite regional officer, 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.’