Around 300 engineering construction workers at the Fawley Esso oil refinery are being balloted for strike action over pay, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today (Thursday).

The workers are employed by contractors under the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) and carry out essential repair and maintenance at the oil refinery. Strike action would cause significant disruption at the site.

They are angry that the value of their pay has been progressively falling since the pandemic. During Covid, they agreed to a pay freeze even though they provided essential services throughout. In January 2022, they received a two year pay deal of 2.5 per cent for 2022 and again for 2023.

Despite rocketing inflation and huge increases to the cost of living, the Engineering Construction Industry Association (ECIA), which negotiates NAECI with the trade unions, refused to reopen talks through 2022. After campaigning by Unite, the ECIA eventually agreed a non-consolidated supplement in February 2023, which ends in December.

As a result of the Covid pay freeze and two-year below inflation deal, the spending power of the workers’ pay has fallen dramatically. This is in stark contrast to the financial situation of the oil industry where profits have increased irrespective of inflation.

Unite began preparing for formal industrial action proceedings when it became clear the two-year deal put forward for 2024 and 2025 averaging six per cent per year was rejected by the workers. The offer does not go far enough to restore wages for NAECI workers.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This offer is completely unacceptable when the oil industry is awash with profits. It does nothing to reverse the shrinking value of these workers’ wages over successive years.

“It also ties these workers into gambling on the economy and inflation in 2024 and 2025 when their finances have already been battered by increasingly unpredictable market forces. Unite stands rock solid with our NAECI members – the ECIA must come back with an acceptable offer."

The ballot for strike action will close in mid-October, with strike action scheduled to start later that month.

Unite national officer Jason Poulter said: “The anger amongst our membership is such that we are balloting for strike action. The ECIA must acknowledge that without a better offer, falling recruitment and retention for NAECI roles will only get worse.

“Any disruption caused by potential strikes lies squarely at their door – a much improved offer needs to be put forward if this dispute is not to escalate into industrial action.”


Notes to editors:

Unite is balloting more than 3000 NAECI workers at oil refineries, power stations and chemical and pharma plants across the UK.

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

Email: [email protected]

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