The UK process industry is highly innovative and technologically advanced, with significant expenditure on research and development. The industry manufactures a diverse range of materials and products. The industry has faced a torrid time over the past few years. Globalisation has had an adverse effect on UK process manufacturing. High energy costs in the UK are a matter of great concern to this sector of the economy as the sector is a major consumer of energy in its manufacturing processes.

Structure of the sector

The UK glass industry is split into two sections – flat glass manufacturers and container glass manufacturers. The industry produces an estimated 2.8 million tonnes of glass per year, with a saleable value of approximately £1.5 billion.

There are 3 UK employers in the flat glass sector – Pilkingtons, Saint-Gobain and Guardian Glass. Between them they have around 8,400 employees.  Production of clear float glass constitutes the single largest product and unlike container glass, is usually used in long-term applications.

Production of containers for the food and drinks industry, glazing in construction and the automotive industry account for around 90% of glass produced in the UK. The UK container industry presently comprises seven manufacturers operating 30 furnaces on 14 sites with around 4,500 employees.

General rubber processing is also part of the CPPT sector, which includes the manufacturing of tyres, hoses, retreading and the warehousing of those goods.

The rubber sector has a long history dating back to 1885 and also appreciates a high union density with over 3000 members within the UK. Employers within the sector include household names such as Cooper Tyres, Goodyear, three Michelin sites located in Ballymena, Dundee, Stoke and two Pirelli sites located in Burton and Carlisle.

Oil, Gas and Refining
Unite is the largest trade union in the offshore industry representing process, technical, support, contracting and engineering construction workers.

Unite holds agreements with some of the largest petrochemical and gas companies operating offshore. Three employers’ associations also deal with our Union – the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA), the United Kingdom Drilling Contractors Association (UKDCA) and the United Kingdom Floating Production Operators Association (UKFPOA). 

Oil Refineries
Oil refining is seriously under threat in the UK, with nearly all refineries owned by foreign investors. The problems of under-investment over a period of years, and gasoline sales falling by 34% coupled with the carbon leakage issues are leaving the sector vulnerable for the future. Unite's strategy for the oil refining sector can be found in the policy document Refining Our Future.

The recent events at Petroplus Coryton have left the whole of the UK refining industry vulnerable. The parent company went in to administration in January and PriceWaterhouseCoopers were appointed as administrators. Petroplus Coryton was the most profitable refinery in the whole of the Petroplus group. It is perhaps ironic that the other four refineries in France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland have survived with Coryton being closed and some of the assets sold off as a terminal to a tripartite consortium made up of Shell, Vopak and Greenenergy.