Petrochemical plant workers return after walkout

Around 100 workers walked out of Mossmorran on Wednesday morning.

Around 100 workers who walked out of Mossmorran petrochemical plant in Fife have returned after settling a dispute over ‘safety fears and pay’.

On Wednesday, GMB Scotland claimed the contractors had “continuously raised their concerns” about the conditions at the ExxonMobil site, but had been “ignored”.

However, both ExxonMobil and contractor Bilfinger disputed the union’s claim and said the walkout was solely over pay in respect to unofficial industrial action held on Monday.

On Thursday afternoon, both GMB Scotland and Unite unions said the dispute had been “resolved after positive discussions”.

GMB Scotland organiser Gary Cook said: “Staff will now return to work as normal following discussions with the Mossmorran sub-contractor representatives. 

“The concerns raised surrounding working conditions and safety on site will be addressed fully under the terms of the ‘blue book’ industry agreement. 

“Staff will suffer no detriment for the action taken over the last 48 hours and we look forward to working positively with Exxon and the sub-contractor employers moving forward.” 

Bob MacGregor, Unite regional industrial officer, stated the workers “received the assurances” they needed in order to return to work.

He added: “Measures will now be put in place to ensure there is more effective and robust communications on site including on matters relating to health and safety to make sure this situation doesn’t arise again.”

A spokesperson for Bilfinger UK told STV News the discussions mostly revolved around pay, however safety concerns were raised during the negotiations.

The spokesperson added: “We are pleased to have reached a successful conclusion to our discussions with our employees and their union representatives to resolve the dispute.

“Operations have recommenced.”

The plant, which is restarting after closing last August, faced criticism after “intense flaring” at the site last week sparked alarm in the community.

In 2019, the company announced a £140m plan to reduce flaring and improve infrastructure at the plant.

Data published by watchdog the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) earlier on Wednesday rated the firm’s environmental compliance at the site as “poor” in 2018.

Sepa launched a formal investigation into unplanned flaring last April following hundreds of complaints from local residents about a chemical smell and rumbling noise.

In August, the regulator varied the operating permits for ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited, which share the site, requiring them both to address the impacts of flaring and install noise-reducing flare tips.

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