Strike Threat At Refinery Plants

Strike threat at refinery plants

BBC News
August 11, 2009

Thousands of construction workers are being balloted on a national strike over on-going unrest at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in north Lincolnshire.

Unions claim the plant's owner Total has reneged on a deal which settled a bitter jobs dispute in June.

Then 647 workers staged a protest after a sub-contractor cut more than 50 jobs. An agreement later saw all reinstated.

A spokesman for Total UK said it was an issue between contractors and their employees.

The ballot forms part of a long-running dispute over pay, conditions and the recruitment of foreign workers in the industry.

Contractors at Grangemouth in Scotland, Sellafield in Cumbria, Stanlow on Merseyside, Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire and Aberthaw in Wales, are being balloted.

The ballot will close on 11 September, with any agreed action following shortly after.

The June dispute at Lindsey came after a sub-contractor cut jobs for workers on a major expansion project at the refinery while another employer on the site was hiring people.

Workers argued that broke an agreement not to cut jobs while there were vacancies elsewhere on the site.

In the following days, 647 of them were sacked.

'Anger and frustration'

There followed further wildcat strikes at the Lindsey refinery and at other power stations and oil and gas plants across the UK.

All were reinstated at Lindsey after a deal was negotiated between unions and Total.

But unions claim their calls for a national agreement on employment and conditions in the industry have been rejected.

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “The anger and frustration felt by both workers and bona fide employers in the engineering construction industry at the misuse and exploitation of migrant labour has now been boiling over for many months as witnessed on several sites across the country.

“The objective of this dispute is to eliminate discrimination, unfair treatment and exploitation in this industry of workers where ever they come from.

“A robust and transparent auditing process is the only way of forcing these employers to break from their bad habits.

“This is not a skills issue, this is not a foreign work issue, it is about fairness and adhering to agreed standards.”

Iain Hutchinson, from Total UK said: “This is an issue between contractors and their employees.

“Total is not party to the contract companies' labour relations processes, nor can we dictate how they manage their employee's contracts.”

A GMB spokesman said that because Total employed the contractors they were held accountable.