Stanlow is one of the largest refineries in Europe (Picture:William Starkey)

Hundreds of oil refinery workers have won a victory over bonus payments at Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port in the north west of England.

The workers include scaffolders, electricians, laggers, crane drivers, welders, pipe fitters, riggers and steel erectors. Some 450 workers were set to strike on Tuesday morning, with proposed escalating action over a number of days in the next few weeks.

Initially Stanlow owner Essar Oil UK said the workers were not Essar employees and so the rates for the job had nothing to do with them. The workers on site are employed by a string of big names in the construction industry.

They include Altrad, Babcock, Bilfinger, Hutchinson Engineering, Pump Supply & Repair Group, Sarens and Wood Group. The workers at the plant were paid a regular bonus rate of 80p an hour.

The construction workers’ pay is set by the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (Naeci). But under Naeci these bonus payments are negotiated on a local level, and provide an opportunity for workers to resist over pay.

With the hour of the strike approaching, the bosses backed down. The workers will now receive the full bonus available under the national agreement. This means the bonus goes from 80p an hour to £2.37 an hour. It shows that if the potential of action can scare the bosses, then-hard hitting action can beat back bosses’ profit gouging.

One worker at the Essar site—a former blacklisted electrician—told Socialist Worker, “Collectively we have shown big business that you can’t keep making millions of pounds off our backs. Without the construction workers, you are nothing and we shouldn’t have to take a stance. You should be begging us to build your oil refineries and power stations.”

Stanlow is one of the largest refineries in Europe supplying 16 percent of all British road transport fuels. The refinery made an operating profit of £253 million during the first half of the 2023 financial year.

Another worker told Socialist Worker, “This is massive. It has a huge effect across a range of contractors and bosses. It shows that if you stand up, you can get back some of what they take. It should lead to a range of disputes of people getting better bonuses out of the construction and energy bosses.”

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