Hundreds of engineering construction contractors have walked out at the Lindsey oil refinery in North Lincolnshire for the second time over job losses.
The protest began after major sub-contractor Shaw Ltd announced 51 redundancies among contract staff with immediate effect, while another employer on the site was hiring workers.
Up to 750 contractors immediately withdrew their services and demonstrated outside the refinery. The strike hit work on a new unit at the site, which was at the centre of unofficial strikes earlier this year.
The refinery employs 550 staff and has up to 1,000 contract workers at any time.
The first unofficial strike in February was over the employment of staff from overseas by Italian contractor IREM, with workers in Britain not being given the opportunity to apply for jobs – in breach of the National Agreement for the Construction Engineering Industry.
Speaking at the demonstration, Lindsey shop steward Kenny Ward quoted a statement issued by refinery operator Total in February which said: “There will be no immediate reduncies on this project while IREM remain on the site.”
But Mr Ward said: “The company has been recruiting skilled workers from Britain to fill the skills gap that they have.
“Our worst fears have been confirmed, that the workers brought from Italy, Portugal and Spain do not have the revelant competencies, qualifications and capabilities to carry out the specialist tasks.”
He added that the “vast majority” of those who had lost their jobs were trade union members, some of whom were former shop stewards and members of the strike committee from the February dispute.
“We are going to defend these men to the best of our ability both locally and, if need be, nationally,” he vowed.
The protests were set to continue tomorrow.
General union GMB said that it was also concerned that the workers were being victimised.
General secretary Paul Kenny said: “There are concerns that these workers may be being victimised for earlier industrial action and that these redundancies are in breach of the agreement that brought industrial peace to the site some months ago.
“We understand that local discussions are under way to try to resolve the dispute.”
Total confirmed that the protest was going ahead, but claimed that work at the refinery was unaffected.
Unofficial strike action was held last month by workers against the Dutch-based employer Hertel over the use of 40 Polish workers at South Hook, the Milford Haven oil terminal owned by ExxonMobil and Total of France.
Industrial action quickly spread to Aberthaw power station in the Vale of Glamorgan, then Fiddlers Ferry power station near Widnes in Cheshire and three other energy plants.
Members of GMB and fellow industry union Unite are currently balloting for official national strike action over employers’ endemic failure to abide by the national agreement.
From the Morning Star