Essar refinery generating massive profits but staff refused reasonable bonus rates  

Around 450 Essar Stanlow refinery workers employed by several contractors at the Cheshire site will begin pay strikes this week, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today (Monday). 

The construction workers, whose pay is set by the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI), are striking over their employers’ refusal to raise bonus payments. Under NAECI, these payments are negotiated on a local level. 

Currently the workers, who include scaffolders, electricians, laggers, crane drivers, welders, pipe fitters, riggers and steel erectors, have experienced years of real terms pay cuts to their hourly NAECI rates. 

Despite this, they are paid a regular bonus rate of just 80p an hour, even though the refinery made operating profits of £253 million during the first half of the 2023 financial year. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Essar is absolutely awash with cash and its contractors at the refinery are on extremely lucrative contracts. It is completely unacceptable that these workers are being refused a reasonable bonus rate when there is clearly money to spare to pay them properly. Unite defends our members’ jobs, pay and conditions to the hilt and Stanlow’s workers have their union’s total backing in taking strike action.”

A continuous overtime ban, inclusive of call out and stand by, begins today (17 July). The first 48 hours of strike action commences tomorrow (18 July), with further strikes taking place on 25 and 26 July and 1, 2, 8 and 9 August. Industrial action will intensify if the dispute is not resolved. 

The strikes will severely impact operations at the Stanlow refinery, the UK's second largest. Stanlow supplies 16 per cent of the UK’s road fuels and is a major producer of aviation fuel. The workers are employed by Altrad, Babcock, Bilfinger, Hutchinson Engineering, Pump Supply & Repair Group, Sarens and Wood Group.

Unite regional officer Lee Brennan said: “Over the last five years, our members’ wages have not kept pace with the cost of living. This has been made worse by the fact that the NAECI pay award for this year has resulted in a substantial real terms pay cut for the highly skilled and essential workforce based at Essar. The employers and Essar can absolutely afford to pay a fair bonus rate and that is what needs to happen.” 


For media enquires ONLY contact senior Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215 or 020 3371 2065. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Instagram: unitetheunion


Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.