Fawley workers vote as oil giant Exxon risks fuel supply with ‘insulting’ wage proposal

Fuel supplies to airports and petrol stations could be hit this spring if workers at the giant Fawley refinery on the UK’s south coast go on strike against a `insulting’ wage offer, the Unite union said.

A ballot for 100 workers, around a third of all contractors at the site, is being launched today (Monday 21 February) and the strike is due to begin in April. With some of the workers providing safety-critical services, a strike could lead to plant-wide closures.

Unite members employed by three contractors at the Fawley site – Trant Engineering Limited, Veolia Services and Altrad Services – are dazed by the wage offer of 2.5% for the next two years, while the real cost of living is 7.8% and is expected to climb higher.

Unite is pushing for a one-year deal in line with inflation.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Employers need to withdraw this insulting salary offer, which is in fact a reduction, and think again. Our members have bigger and bigger bills to pay like everyone else, and with galloping inflation, there’s no way we’re going to accept a paltry 2.5% for this workforce.

“This workforce did everything Exxon asked of them during the pandemic, changing shifts and losing vital overtime payments. They so deserve this from Exxon, which makes money from oil and gas but is now pressuring employers to cut our members’ wages. It is simply unacceptable.

“Unite is fully committed to improving our members’ jobs, wages and conditions so that our members at the Fawley site have our full support in their fight for fair wages.”

Veolia members of Unite carry out safety-critical work such as the evacuation of waste water and hydrocarbons and emergency works. They were on site during Storm Eunice to maintain security while the site operated with essential workers only. Other members are involved in supplying fuel to airports for aircraft as well as gasoline and diesel for garage forecourts.

During the pandemic, Unite members changed their work habits at Exxon’s request by waiving overtime pay which is a significant part of their income.

Regional Unite Officer Malcolm Bonnett added: “These skilled workers have made a serious change during the pandemic to ensure Fawley remains resilient. They’ve changed their work habits and lost a lot of wages, so they’re totally amazed that this is how Exxon wants employers to reimburse them.

“Exxon and the employers know what to do to avoid a strike this spring. Drop a respectful offer to this workforce so we can focus on the planned redevelopment of the Fawley site and begin the essential work of harmonizing wages and conditions across all trades. We are not prepared to put up with a situation any longer where workers fall behind in wages year after year and do not have the same full sick pay as executives.

Exxon, owner of Fawley, is the largest American oil and gas giant. In 2021, it posted revenue of £6.75bn, its highest since 2017 and driven by high global oil and gas costs [www.theguardian.com/business/2021/dec/06/oil-companies-profits-exxon-chevron-shell-exclusive]

Unite is dedicated to improving the jobs, wages and conditions of its members and will oppose any effort to diminish the standard of living of workers.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For further information, please contact Shaun Noble, Senior Communications Manager at Unite, on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. The Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065.

Please note that the above numbers are for journalists’ inquiries only.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org

Unite is the leading trade union in the UK and Ireland, dedicated to defending and improving the jobs, wages and conditions of its members. The General Secretary is Sharon Graham.