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Lindsey refinery strikers return to work
(Thursday 05 February 2009) by industrial reporter Paul Haste
HUNDREDS of oil refinery workers who walked out on unofficial strikes for a week voted to return to work on Thursday.
Lindsey oil refinery strike committee rep Phil Whitehurst said that the 400 strikers had voted “unanimously” to end their dispute over bosses’ unfair hiring practices.
The Total refinery had handed a contract to engineering construction firm Jacobs, which then subcontracted work to an Italian company, IREM.
Some 200 specialist workers were then brought in by IREM, sparking a walkout by Total workers concerned by the bosses’ undercutting of union contracts.
Italian union confederation CGIL leader Sabrina Petrucci confirmed that the Italian subcontractor is a notorious non-union firm. “That says a lot about its approach to industrial relations,” she said.
Solidarity strikes and mass protests across the country piled the pressure on Total to agree to a deal with the Lindsey strike committee on Thursday, when management offered to share a further 200 jobs at the refinery between Italian workers and “British nationals.”
Mr Whitehurst said that the unofficial action had been an “uprising.”
“We have got the MPs worried. I think we have got Gordon Brown worried.
“I don’t think they know how to deal with us. We are not trying to bring the government down, we’re just trying to get them to listen to our concerns at being excluded,” he explained.
Fellow strike committee rep Keith Gibson predicted more fightbacks against bosses’ attempts to make workers pay for the recession by worsening pay and conditions. “This year, working people will understand the situation the country is in,” he warned.
“Over the coming months, there are going to be major battles over jobs. There are thousands and thousands of jobs in this country under threat because of the financial situation.”
Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson pointed out that “Lindsey is part of a much wider problem that will not go away.
“There are still employers who are excluding workers from even applying for work on construction projects, but no European worker should be barred from applying for a British job and absolutely no British worker should be barred from applying for a British job,” he stressed.