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Fuel supplies at risk as Unite ballots workers at Exxon refinery

© Supplied by ExxonMobilUnite workers Exxon refinery
ExxonMobil's Fawley refinery and petrochemical complex

Dozens of workers employed at supermajor ExxonMobil’s Fawley refinery and petrochemical complex could soon down tools as part of a dispute around pay.

A ballot of 100 Unite members employed at the facility by contractors Trant Engineering, Veolia Services and Altrad Services has kicked off today.

It follows a 2.5% pay offer for the next two years put forward by Exxon (NYSE: XOM), a figure the union says is “insulting” and left workers “stunned”.

Unite says the real cost of living increase sits at 7.8% and is pushing for a one year deal that is in line with inflation.

If approved strikes at Fawley, which is on the south coast of England near Southampton, would get underway in April and could hit fuel supplies to airports and filling stations.

Some of the workers embroiled in the dispute are responsible for providing safety critical services, meaning some parts of the facility could have to be shut down.

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.”

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Unite’s Veolia members carry out safety critical work at Fawley, such as the removal of sewage and hydrocarbons, and emergency works.

During the havoc reeked by Storm Eunice last week, they remained on site to maintain safety while the facility was operating with essential workers only.

Other union members are involved in providing fuel to airports, as well as petrol and diesel for garage forecourts.

According to Unite, its members altered their working patterns during Covid-19 at the request of Exxon, 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.”

An ExxonMobil spokesperson said: “We understand this matter relates to ongoing pay negotiations between members of the Unite the 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.”

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