Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Refinery strikes spread across UK

Refinery worker: 'They're giving all our jobs to other people'

Strikes have been breaking out across the UK in support of a mass walkout by energy workers in Lincolnshire angry at the use of foreign workers.

Hundreds gathered for the third day of the original strike at Lindsey Oil Refinery after owner Total gave a 200m contract to an Italian firm.

They have been supported by hundreds of other "sympathy" strikers in Scotland, Wales and other parts of England.

Total said there would be no "direct redundancies" as a result of the deal.

The firm added that staff employed by the Italian company IREM would be paid the same as existing contractors on the project. More than 300 of its workers have been brought in to do the work.

Sites affected by sympathy walk-outs include Fiddlers Ferry power station, Warrington, Cheshire; Grangemouth oil refinery in central Scotland; South Hook Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire; and Kilroot Power station near Larne, County Antrim.

ENERGY WORKERS' PROTESTS
Map of protests by UK energy workers
1. Grangemouth oil refinery, Central Scotland
2. Scottish Power's Longannet power station, Fife
3. Scottish Power's Cockenzie power station, East Lothian
4. Shell gas processing plant, St Fergus, Aberdeenshire
5. British Energy power station, Torness, East Lothian
6. Mossmorran chemical plant, Fife
7. Npower Aberthaw power station, south Wales
8. South Hook natural gas terminal, Milton Haven, Pembrokeshire
9. ICI chemical refinery at Wilton, Teesside
10. Corus steel plant near Redcar, Teeside
11. Scottish & Southern's Fiddler's Ferry power station, Cheshire
12. AES Kilroot power station, County Antrim
13. Marchwood power station, Hampshire

Total bosses said the Italian firm IREM, which employs a specialist workforce, had won the contract to construct the new HDS-3 unit at the Lindsey plant, after a "fair" tendering process.

Unite regional officer Bernard McAuley told Friday's rally in Lincolnshire: "There is sufficient unemployed, skilled labour wanting the right to work on that site and they are demanding the right to work on that site."

He said the leaders of Unite and the GMB had urged the prime minister to call an urgent meeting with the heads of industry in the engineering and construction industry.

Mass meeting

Later the prime minister's spokesman said the government would hold talks with the construction industry in the next few days "to ensure they are doing all they can to support the UK economy".

He said the contracts at the Lindsey refinery were awarded some time ago when there was a shortage of labour in the construction sector, which was now not the case.

Unite Regional officer Bobby Buirds said shop stewards would meet in Glasgow on Friday afternoon to discuss the Scottish protests, none of which involved pickets.

Some of the Scottish strikers have travelled to Lindsey to join the picket there.

Speaking on Friday from Wilton, on Teesside, one protester urged the prime minister to take action, saying: "All we want is for Gordon Brown to fulfil his promise. He said British jobs for British workers."

A protester at the Lincolnshire plant said British workers should have priority of access to jobs.

"It's been a kettle ready to boil and the lid has blown off now," he said.

When asked about the growing action, Gordon Brown - speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos - said he "understood" people's worries.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Where is the humanity in ruining someone's local environment by building a massive industrial refinery and then bringing in people from around the world to work there?
Ben Platt, Liverpool

He said the government was doing "everything we can" to shore up the economy as well as help individuals back into work.

Employment Minister Pat McFadden said the Prime Minister's promise of "British jobs for British workers" at the Labour Party conference in 2007 had not meant that UK firms would be encouraged to flout European laws on free mobility of labour.

"Gordon, in saying that, never said we are going to have economic protectionism, we're going to stop international trade, we're going to stop British companies trading abroad, or European companies trading here," Mr McFadden told BBC Five Live.

"What he's saying there is, I want to see the British workforce equipped for the jobs and skills of the future. And that's precisely what the government is doing."

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he hoped workers would return to work quickly after making their point.

Unite's governing national executive has called for a national protest in Westminster, and joint general secretary Derek Simpson said it was consulting its lawyers over the legality of engineering and construction employment practices.

"The union is doing everything in its power to ensure that employers end this immoral, potentially illegal and politically dangerous practice of excluding UK workers from some construction projects," he said.

In a statement, Total said it "recognised" the concerns of contractors.

"It is important to note that we have been a major local employer for 40 years with 550 permanent staff employed at the refinery.

"There are also between 200 and 1,000 contractors working at the refinery, the vast majority of which work for UK companies employing local people."

The HDS-3 unit affected is separate to the main refinery. Total said the action has not affected normal operations.

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SEE ALSO
Q&A: What is the dispute about?
30 Jan 09 |  Business
PM stands by 'British jobs' vow
30 Jan 09 |  UK Politics
Energy protest grows in Scotland
30 Jan 09 |  Tayside and Central
NI energy workers support strike
30 Jan 09 |  Northern Ireland
Refinery picketed for third day
30 Jan 09 |  Humber

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