Mossmorran Walkout: Workers from two contractors involved in dispute

More details have emerged over the walkout of 100 staff at Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran..

The unofficial stoppage happened when workers employed on a contractor left the petrochemical site – which has been decommissioned for the past six months – reportedly in protest at redundancy selection measures, pay and health and safety issues.

They were then joined by staff employed by Bilfinger working at the plant who came out in unofficial sympathy action.

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The dispute came just days after SEPA issued the plant with a ‘poor’ rating – an assessment the company has appealed and asked to see the evidential data behind it.

ExxonMobil said it was aware of the dispute and it was working closely with all contracting companies on site, and hope that the parties involved could find an amicable resolution.

A GMB Scotland spokesman said relationships between workforce and management “had been deteriorating for some time.”

He added: ““Workers have continuously raised their concerns about conditions and safety on-site but have frankly been ignored.

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A spokesman for Bilfinger said: “Workers employed by a separate contractor at the Fife Ethylene Plant in Mossmorran staged an unofficial industrial action on Monday, which a number of our employees joined with unofficial sympathy action. This action resulted in a dispute over payment for the time our employees had withdrawn their labour.

“We are now working closely with our employees and the trade union, Unite, to quickly resolve this.”

He said there was no dispute relating to working conditions, welfare, redundancy measures and health and safety between Bilfinger employees working at the plant and Bilfinger UK, and added: “We maintain an open dialogue with our employees and have rigorous health and safety processes in place, with no incidents reported since the contract began in September 2019.

“Our continued focus is on the ongoing success of our operations at the plant, safeguarding the long-term employment of our skilled and experienced workforce.”

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Political pressure continued to surround the plant, with Mark Ruskell, Green MSP,supporting the workers who walked out.

He said: “Mossmorran is an industrial relic and the frontline of our climate emergency challenge.

“Not only has the site been causing misery for the local community with unplanned flaring, now we hear staff are concerned about safety. This community faces an uncertain future, with no attempt to build sustainable alternative jobs in the area.

“Neither ministers or operators have engaged enough with this community. The plant must be made fit for a net-zero carbon Scotland or they must plan well ahead for closure. If the plant has to shut in the years to come, then discussions about what is next for this community need to start now.”

Mossmorran Action Group (MAG) also spoke out.

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James Glen, who chairs the group – which has a public meeting planned for Lochgelly Town Hall on Friday night –said: “How can communities have confidence that Mossmorran is safe when 100 workers have staged a walk-out in part over health and safety concerns at the ethylene plant?”
He added: “On the day when SEPA gives Exxon a poor rating on its 2018 performance, workers take industrial action over safety concerns and the operator responsible announces it will boycott a public meeting with regulators for a third time, it is hugely disappointing that Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham says she is too busy to come to Lochgelly on Friday meeting to attend the same public meeting.

“No Scottish Government minister has ever come to central Fife to hear directly from residents about their questions and worries about their dangerous neighbour. How much longer can the Scottish Government sling local communities a deafie?”

The plant was de-activated on August 12 after breakdowns in two of its boilers, which later turned out to be explosions.

Owners, ExxonMobil planned a significant “repair and replace” project which was to deliver more reliability in the plant’s performance.

Hopes of a November re-start were delayed into the new year, and it remains shut.