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A significant number of employees at the Mossmorran petrochemical plant have ceased work as a form of protest, citing concerns related to health and safety. The workforce at the Fife refinery, owned by ExxonMobil, witnessed approximately 200 members withdrawing their labour on Tuesday. The motivation behind this action is the allegation that the oil company has not fulfilled its “legal obligation” to ensure the well-being of its staff. The dispute revolves around assertions that health and safety alerts and protocols are not fully operational throughout the facility.
The Unite union has additionally asserted that workers were not duly informed about this situation or any measures that had been implemented to safeguard them. The union has gathered reports from employees spanning the past year, claiming that alarm systems in certain parts of the plant are malfunctioning, leaving staff unaware of potential hazards. The union contends that notifying workers under such circumstances is a legal prerequisite to address potential leaks, explosions, or exposure to dangerous substances. Workers who chose to protest based on these concerns have found their pay reduced.
ExxonMobil has characterised the strike as an “unofficial action” carried out by a subset of workers and has maintained that the facility adheres to all safety standards. However, Unite has called for an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) due to the gravity of the allegations.
Sharon Graham, the General Secretary of Unite, stated, “Unite will steadfastly defend our members’ lawful right to abstain from work due to health and safety apprehensions at ExxonMobil’s Mossmorran site. The refusal of the company and its various contractors to provide our members with their rightful wages is absolutely unacceptable. Compliance with this is not open to interpretation. Our members can anticipate unwavering support from their union.”
Unite’s members employed at ExxonMobil’s site are engaged in construction engineering maintenance contracts and are dispersed among different contractors at the plant: Altrad, Bilfinger, and Kaefer.
Bob MacGregor, Industrial Officer of Unite, added, “Unite’s members associated with Altrad, Bilfinger, and Kaefer at the Mossmorran plant are justifiably enraged by the potential exposure to hazardous chemicals due to inadequacies in the plant’s safety protocols. To compound the issue, ExxonMobil and the contractors have declined to compensate workers after they refrained from work due to health and safety reasons. This is not an isolated occurrence; these safety breaches and deficiencies have been persistent for nearly a year without resolution. This is why Unite is urging the HSE to urgently intervene given the gravity of the allegations and the history of issues at the plant.”
The controversial Ethylene plant situated near Cowdenbeath at Mossmorran has previously drawn comparisons from locals to Mordor due to the site’s intense and noisy flaring. Shell also operates a neighbouring Natural Gas Liquids plant on the same site.
ExxonMobil responded by stating, “We are aware of unofficial action initiated by a small number of individuals employed by contracting companies on our site. There is no disruption to our operations, which continue as usual. The Fife Ethylene Plant adheres fully to approved site safety standards and procedures.”