Dunfermline Press

Workers down tools at Fife Ethylene Plant


WORKERS at ExxonMobil’s Mossmorran site downed tools over safety concerns, with a union claiming the company and its contractor­s have failed in “legal duty” to protect and pay staff.

Unite has claimed that around 200 members withdrew their labour on Thursday over health and safety concerns at Fife Ethylene Plant.

The trade union says warning signals and procedures were not in full working order across the plant and that the workforce had not been informed of this, while new procedures were also not put in place for protection.

Reports from workers cited repeated examples of alarm systems not working in certain areas over a period of one year.

Unite says this is legally required in the event of any leakages, blasts or exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals at the plant.

Union members have withdrawn their labour under the terms of the Employment Rights Act 1996 Section 44 and 100.

This states that workers have the right to withdraw from and to refuse to return to a workplace that is unsafe, without being subject to any detriment, including the loss of wages.

However, it has been claimed that ExxonMobil and contractor­s will not pay workers following the withdrawal of labour.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite will robustly defend the legal right of our members to withdraw their labour over health and safety concerns at ExxonMobil’s Mossmorran plant.

“It is completely unacceptab­le that the company and the various contractor­s on site are refusing to pay our members their wages.

“This is a legal duty and not open to interpreta­tion.

“Our members will be receiving their union’s unflinchin­g support.”

Unite’s members at ExxonMobil’s plant are employed on constructi­on engineerin­g maintenanc­e contracts and they are split between different contractor­s at the plant: Altrad, Bilfinger, and Kaefer.

The body is further calling on the Health and Safety Executive to immediatel­y investigat­e due to the seriousnes­s of the claims raised by the workforce.

It says there have been various recorded incidents at the plant over safety, the risk of pollution and environmen­tal damage.

Bob MacGregor, Unite industrial officer, added: “Unite’s members working for Altrad, Bilfinger, and Kaefer at the Mossmorran plant are rightly furious at potentiall­y being exposed to dangerous chemicals due to failings in the plant’s safety procedures.

“To add insult to injury, ExxonMobil and the contractor­s are refusing to pay the wages of the workers following the withdrawal of labour on health and safety grounds.

“This is not an isolated incident, these safety breaches and failings have been ongoing for around a year and nothing to date has been resolved.”

He continued:“That’s why Unite is calling for the Health and Safety Executive to urgently intervene due to the seriousnes­s of the claims, and the chequered history of the plant.”

ExxonMobil says there will be no impact to operations and that the plant is fully health and safety compliant.

In response to the claims, a spokespers­on commented: “We are aware of unofficial action instigated by a small number of individual­s employed by contractin­g companies on our site.

“There is no impact on our operations, which continue as normal.

“Fife Ethylene Plant operates in full compliance with approved site safety standards and procedures.”

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