Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 15:49 UK

Foreign labour walkout continues

Strikers at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire
The workers at South Hook say they feel let down

Thousands of contract workers at oil and gas plants in England and Wales are staging unofficial strikes in protest over the use of foreign labour.

Staff at sites in Pembrokeshire, the Vale of Glamorgan, North Lincolnshire and Cheshire are taking part in the wildcat action which began on Tuesday.

Workers there say an agreement to offer jobs to local workers has been broken.

Similar walkouts took place in January after a Lincolnshire refinery gave a £200m contract to an Italian firm.

The latest dispute began when workers at the liquefied natural gas terminal in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, accused their bosses of breaching an agreement to employ British staff at the South Hook site.

'Regret situation'

Union shop steward Jason Smith said a contracting firm's decision to only employ Polish labour for a phase of work had got "everybody's backs up".

"The only reason we're here is they [the workers] all feel let down. The site agreement has always been local and British labour first," he said.

But Hertel UK, the contractor for the Pembrokeshire site, said it had been unable to source skilled people for the start of the project.

They [the South Hook workers] came out in support of us in February and we are doing the same
Tony Ryan
Lindsey Oil Refinery

Managing director David Fitzsimons said: "As a result, we subcontracted the works to a third party which also employs non-UK labour and was also engaged on phase one of this project in 2008."

He added: "I regret that this situation has escalated. We understand people's concerns and we have engaged in detailed discussions with trade union national officials and local representatives."

Talks between the workers and contractors took place on Tuesday night and were expected to continue on Wednesday in a bid to resolve the row.

Worker movement

Meanwhile, sympathy strikes are continuing in other parts of the UK.

Workers at the Dragon LNG plant in Milford Haven and 250 workers at the Aberthaw Power Station in the Vale of Glamorgan walked out on Wednesday after similar action on Tuesday.

More than 2,000 workers at the ConocoPhillips and Lindsey oil refineries in North Lincolnshire and others at Fiddlers Ferry power plant in Warrington, Cheshire, also staged strikes.

Workers express their anger

Tony Ryan, a steward at Lindsey Oil Refinery, told the BBC: "They [the South Hook workers] came out in support of us in February and we are doing the same.

"They are suffering the same hardship as we suffered in February and the same discrimination and they have asked for our support and we are giving it fully."

But the European Commission's employment spokeswoman, Katharina Von Schnurbein said the free movement of labour and services within Europe should not jeopardised.

"We think that free movement of workers benefits both the workers and the host country. Certainly closing borders doesn't create any jobs," she said.

"You have to see also that it works both ways - British people also benefit from working abroad."

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