Unite’s NAECI members carry out repair and maintenance at oil refineries, power stations and pharmaceutical and petrochemical plants. They are also involved in the construction of new build projects of critical industrial infrastructure.
The workers have seen the value of their pay erode over the past four years. During the covid crisis, 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% for 2022 and the same again for 2023.
Despite spiralling inflation, the employers who negotiate NAECI with the trade unions refused to reopen talks through 2022, Unite said. They eventually agreed a non-consolidated supplement in February 2023, which ends in December.
Unite began preparing for formal industrial action proceedings when it became clear the two-year deal put forward for 2024 and 2025, averaging 6% per year, was rejected by 92% of the membership.
Sites that would be affected by strike action include Sellafield, Drax, Hunterston B, Torness and Hartlepool power stations, oil refineries and petrochemical plants in Fawley, Stanlow, Pembroke, Grangemouth and Carrington, and the DSM Dalry, GSK Montrose and GSK Irvine pharmaceutical plants.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This offer is completely unacceptable when the industries involved are awash with profits. It does nothing to reverse the shrinking value of these workers’ wages over successive years or that higher pay elsewhere is causing workforce shortages.
“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 employers’ must come back with an acceptable offer.”
The ballots for strike action open on 13th September and 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 employers 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 widespread industrial action.”