Declan Clune, Southampton East Socialist Party
On 8 April, workers at the Fawley Oil Refinery near Southampton carried out their first day of strike action, called against a derisory pay offer and sick pay. Socialist Party members were there in solidarity.
These workers are employed on contracts outsourced by ExxonMobil, the owners of the oil refinery, through contractors Trant Engineering Limited, Veolia Services and Altrad Services. Despite ExxonMobil making huge profits, $23 billion in 2021 alone, the pay offer made to contractors was just 2.5%.
The strike was called to demand a pay offer to reflect a cost-of-living crisis partially reflected in the inflation rate running at over 8%.
This campaign has been widened to include the demand for company sick pay, in line with staff working for ExxonMobil who enjoy that benefit. Those staff include the office-based managers who aren’t required to work in the inclement weather conditions that the contractors have to, which put them at risk of injury and ill-health. Currently, they receive statutory sick pay only.
In a fantastic show of support, other workers not affected by this dispute refused to cross the picket line and joined the strike. A crew of workers linked to the travelling community refused to work on the day of the strike.
There has also been support from elsewhere. One trade unionist in the aircraft construction industry came down from Scotland explaining that a huge amount of aircraft fuel comes from Fawley.
A local school student came to show solidarity, explaining he was taking time out of class to do so. He pointed out the importance of the dispute to the local community, as many work within the refinery.
There are two more days of strike action taking place on 25 April and 6 May. Solidarity messages can be sent to [email protected]