UNION members at Essar Oil in Ellesmere Port are to be balloted on whether they wish to take industrial action over potential job cuts.

The jobs of 184 workers are under threat at the Stanlow site following plans to decommission the Shell Higher Olefins Plant (SHOP) and Alcohols units.

Unite has accused Essar of failing to consult with staff meaningfully or explore every reasonable option to minimise job losses, including the redeployment of workers by replacing contractor or agency roles with Essar staff, or through the creation of new positions.

The proposed job losses come at the same time as record levels of overtime are being worked.

In a statement, Unite said it will begin the process to ballot more than 500 at the Ellesmere Port plant on whether they wish to take industrial action up to and including strike action.

It also called on Essar to guarantee no compulsory redundancies and commit to continuity of employment for its members, by working with the union to reach a fair resolution.

An Essar spokesman described Unite's statement on possible industrial action as 'disappointing', adding the company and union "have been working closely over the past months to try and find the best solution to a situation that was not of our making".

Unite regional coordinating officer Mick Chalmers said: "Unite will be offering our members maximum support and pressing for guarantees of no compulsory redundancies from Essar.

"Our members are feeling increasingly betrayed because of the company's refusal to give assurances on jobs and continuity of employment.

"We will fight compulsory redundancies by every means open to us, including industrial action.

"Essar needs to stop its rushed plans take steps to redeploy our members at risk to avoid industrial action taking place."

Ian Cotton, head of communications and community for Essar Oil (UK) Limited told the Globe: "The decision announced in December 2018 to close the SHOP and Alcohols units was made by Shell Chemicals alone. Essar was not in any way involved with this decision.

"An ongoing and meaningful consultation process continues with regular meetings with those Essar Oil UK employees impacted by the closure decision and both employee and trade union representatives.

"The aim of the consultation process is to minimise as far as possible the impact of the Shell closure decision and consider the views of those affected by the Shell announcement, including their representatives.

"A total of 184 employees are potentially impacted by the Shell chemical units closure and this significant number has limited the options available to the company.

"During consultations, both employee and Unite representatives requested that Essar consider a voluntary redundancy scheme as an alternative to potential compulsory redundancies focused solely on the SHOP and Alcohols units.

"After careful consideration, and mindful of the potential loss of highly trained and experienced employees, Essar agreed to support this proposal as a way of minimising the impact of the Shell closure decision and help avoid, in so far as is practicable, having to consider potential compulsory redundancies.

"This is a one-off voluntary redundancy programme resulting directly from Shell’s decision to close the Shop and Alcohols units.

"As Unite is aware, the closing date for applications to the scheme has not yet passed and, therefore, Essar is not in a position to give any assurances on potential compulsory redundancies at this time.

"Essar will continue to consult with Unite as planned and would urge them to remain in meaningful discussions with the company both at these formal consultation meetings and at our weekly meetings in order to help us achieve the best possible outcome for those employees impacted by the Shell closure decision."

The Globe has contacted Shell for a comment.