Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Striking workers stand firm on British jobs

By Alex Moss
BBC News, North Lincolnshire

The protests have been peaceful but determined

As the sun rose over the heavy industry of North Lincolnshire, a parade of workers resumed their position on the picket line.

Day eight of the unofficial strike action over the use of foreign labour at Lindsey Oil Refinery would see no let up in the battle which has seen walkouts across the UK.

Hundreds of people joined the picket line in freezing temperatures and heavy snow, but there was more talk of principles than the weather.

The dispute erupted last Wednesday over anger that a contract for work to expand the refinery was sub-contracted by Total's main contractor - engineering firm Jacobs - to an Italian company, IREM, which decided to use its own workforce.

Unions have said British staff should be doing the work and hundreds of protesters have led "sympathy" strikes throughout the UK.

Total, the French owners of the refinery in North Killingholme, insists it is not discriminating against British workers and the decision to award the contract was fair.

Strikers from the refinery have been joined by unemployed people who are angry that local labour is being ignored.

We have to live in the shadow of the oil refinery, the least they should do is give jobs to the local community
Immingham business owner Deborah Thompson

Unite shop steward Kenny Logan, from nearby Scunthorpe, is one of the unemployed.

He said: "I'm looking for a job here and that's part of my argument, part of the reason why I'm determined, not just for myself but for other unemployed people that they should have access to these jobs.

"It's about time the power triangle was turned upside down and back to its normality where the people tell the politicians what to do, the politicians don't tell the people what to do.

"All these men are making sacrifices because they are determined to see this through and get a resolution and get justice.

"This is a small price to pay to achieve a victory for something you believe in."

Gordon Bailey, 56, a contractor who has worked at the Lindsey site since September, said the men were happy to keep up the strike until a deal was agreed.

"Absolutely we cannot go back on this, it's a 100 per cent that the men will stay here as long as it takes. We have to stand up for what we believe in."


Stephen Briggs, 62, said the strikers were resolute that the dispute was not a race issue.

He said: "We have got nothing against foreign workers, the fact is that there are a lot of local people who are out of work and are looking for jobs.

Floating accommodation for non-British workers, near Lindsey oil refinery
The European workers are living in floating accommodation nearby

"We work with a lot of foreign guys already and they are brilliant. We just don't think it's fair when there's a recession in this country and people need the jobs that they bring in all these people and refuse to employ the British."

In nearby Immingham, strike action has gained support from the community.

Deborah Thompson, owner of Pelham Track Equestrian, said: "My father helped build that oil refinery. Everyone in the town knows someone who works there, it was always meant for local people.

"We have to live in the shadow of the oil refinery, the least they should do is give jobs to the local community."

Resident Andrew Lewis said: "I totally sympathise with their plight. It's disgusting when there's a recession and our people are begging for jobs and the highly skilled workforce is being ignored.

"The country has gone mad. We have got to a point where British people are not the priority anymore and it stinks."

Print Sponsor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific