Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 08:50 UK

Gas workers end wildcat walkout

Protesters at South Hook LNG
Protesters claimed foreign workers were hired ahead of local labour

Contract workers at a liquefied natural gas terminal have voted to end their strike over foreign labour.

A wildcat strike by 200 workers at South Hook in Pembrokeshire had prompted sympathy walkouts by thousands of workers across the UK.

Union leaders say they have won assurances that local workers will be given a fair chance to land jobs.

The firm employing contractors at South Hook is to withdraw 40 non-UK workers and take on appropriate UK staff.

Oil refinery workers in north Lincolnshire walked out in support of the South Hook LNG strike in Milford Haven.

Workers at a power station in the Vale of Glamorgan also walked out. The firm running South Hook said it regretted the situation had escalated.

South Hook workers who were protesting outside the LNG site from early morning left at lunchtime on Wednesday.

We are quite happy working alongside workers from Europe and there was never a request made from us for anybody to be taken from site or not to be recruited

Allan Card, Unite

They were unhappy that workers, many from Poland, have been recruited to carry out some of the duties at the site.

They said that British workers were not offered the work. But this claim was denied by Hertel UK, the contractor for the Pembrokeshire site.

The firm said it had been unable to source skilled people for the start of the project.

Meetings with company officials continued on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of the announcement by union leaders.

'Equal opportunity'

Allan Card, regional officer for the union Unite, said staff were happy to get back to work.

"I would say that Hertel have made the decision to withdraw foreign workers from the site at their own behest, it was not a request that was made by the trade unions," he said.

"We are quite happy working alongside workers from Europe and there was never a request made from us for anybody to be taken from site or not to be recruited.

"All we said quite simply was that everybody from the local area and the UK should have an equal opportunity of being employed at this project or any other project in the UK."

The workers were supported in the action for a second day by colleagues at the Dragon LNG plant in Milford Haven.

About 2,500 workers walked out of two refineries at North Killingholme, northern Lincolnshire.

Protestors at Aberthaw
Around 200 workers at Aberthaw Power Station came out in support

Meanwhile, 250 contract workers walked out of Aberthaw Power Station in the Vale of Glamorgan.

They included pipe-fitters, laggers, scaffolders, welders and other trades involved in annual maintenance and on the installation of new de-sulphurisation equipment to clean up Aberthaw's emissions.

The walkout started on Tuesday with 50 laggers at South Hook LNG in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire.

The terminal, which imports gas from the Middle East, was officially opened by the Queen last week.

Hertel UK employs more than 3,500 UK personnel, including 150 apprentices and trainees.

Managing director David Fitzsimons said: "Following discussions we have agreed to withdraw immediately all 40 non-UK workers and will be looking to directly employ suitably skilled UK workers.

"We trust this will bring the unofficial strike action to an end and hope staff will agree to return to work.

"Though we were unable to find qualified, local employees to fill the roles when first recruiting for the project, we have now been told that a number of applicants are available. We hope to have the replacement workers employed on site this week."

A spokesman for Hertel said the employees were not directly employed by the company but by a subcontractor.

He understands that the employees will be redeployed.

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