Defending the rate for the job: Protest at Fawley Oil Refinery
Staff going to work this morning (27 June 2012) at the Fawley Oil
Refinery in Hampshire were delayed by a dozen members of Unite the
Union supported by members of the National Shop Stewards Network and
Southampton Socialist Party protesting outside gate No.2.
The protest was to highlight what Unite feel is the start of an attack on the terms and conditions of workers at the plant.
Workers were stuck in a two-mile traffic jam while union members
handed out leaflets and talked to people about why they were protesting.
Malcolm Bonnett, Unite’s regional officer explained that in the third
quarter of 2012, starting in the beginning of July, Esso, whose US
parent company is Exxon/Mobil, is going to start a major
shutdown/turnaround on the Cat Cracker plant, which will involve
hundreds of workers working shifts around the clock seven days a week.
Negations for the terms of this special job would normally have taken
place by now between the unions and the employers under the guidance of
the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry
(Naeci) but this has not happened despite Unite asking for talks.
Esso are now engaging a German contractor, Voight Ermo, who are not
signed up members of the Naeci to carry out some of the work.
A spokesperson for the staff at the plant said: “We haven’t got a
problem with workers from wherever being employed under the Naeci – its
when the management and the contractors trawl this country and abroad
looking for downtrodden workers that they can exploit even more, it
needs to stop and it needs to stop now before we are all affected.” He went on to say: “Other major contractors are watching Esso to see what they can get away with at Fawley.
They will be thinking why are we paying Naeci terms and conditions
for our workers? That is how the make their profits – by extracting
surplus value over and above the hourly rate. The less you pay the more
profit you make. It’s that simple” A contractor at Fawley (Redhalls) is already offering non Naeci work
for pipefitters, welders, platers and riggers at a one-off hourly rate
below the Naeci for local workers with an extra £2 an hour extra for
those lodging in the area.
At best that would give you an extra £84 a week to cover your food,
lodgings and travel. In the Fawley area that would be a hard to achieve.
There was a huge tail back of traffic outside the Esso Oil Refinery
at Fawley in Hampshire this morning (27 June 2012) where Unite staged a
protest in defence of the NAECI/Blue Book agreement on wages and
Esso’s parent company Exxon Mobil is starting a shutdown on the Cat
Cracker plant but, along with the main contractor, is refusing to
confirm if the work will be done under the NAECI agreement.
This will mean that workers in the contractors who get the work could
be paid less than the national agreement with all the other negotiated
terms and conditions.
National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) and Socialist Party members,
including national NSSN chair Rob Williams, joined with Unite officers
and activists who gave out hundreds of leaflets, all determined that
this won’t be another case of greedy bosses looking to threaten
hard-won, longstanding agreements and slash wages, not just in Fawley
There is the danger, as in the Lindsey Oil Refinery dispute in 2009, that the employers will try and exploit workers from abroad to break the NAECI.
The workers in the Lindsey Oil Refinery dispute, led by rank and file
activists like NSSN supporter and Socialist Party member Keith Gibson,
were able to cut across these divide and rule tactics.
The victory of the Sparks in defeating the bosses’ BESNA contract shows that it is possible for workers to win.
This new confidence was shown with the successful reinstatement of
suspended health and safety Ratcliffe steward Jason Poulter, as a result
of over a thousand workers walking out at the power station in May. These activists are prepared to continue the campaign to force Esso and their contractor to adhere to NAECI.