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Posted on 28 June 2012 at 16:07 GMT

Oil Refinery workers protest

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 conditions.

NSSN reporters

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 but nationwide.

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.

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