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Year 2009 No. 44, June 25, 2009 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Lindsey Oil Refinery Strike Spreads:

Unity of Workers against Monopoly Dictate

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Unity of Workers against Monopoly Dictate

GMB Accuse Senior Managers of Provoking the Unofficial Dispute at Lindsey by the Layoff of Original 51 Workers in Breach of Agreements

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Lindsey Oil Refinery Strike Spreads:

Unity of Workers against Monopoly Dictate

Workers at sites across England, Scotland and Wales have joined the actions in support of the action of the Lindsey oil refinery workers. These workers have taken an important stand against monopoly dictate, defying the plans of Total to ride roughshod over their rights, and burning their letters of dismissal in a show of contempt for the oil monopoly.

Total refused to meet the workers’ representatives to resolve the problems. Instead, the workers were victimised en masse and locked out, leading to an escalation of the dispute. Union leaders have said that it is clear that the workers’ unofficial action has been provoked in order to sack them.

GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny has said, “Total are totally without integrity in this matter having before this refused to meet the union for almost a week. Bullying and intimidation is not the way to secure industrial peace.”

More than 1,000 workers at the Lindsey oil refinery have been taking action following the brutal sacking of the 51 victimised steel erectors, platers and welders. Total then sacked 647 workers who took strike action in support. According to the anti-union laws, an unofficial strike means that workers can be sacked with impunity. Thousands of workers at refineries and power stations up and down the country have since taken action.

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Among workers at other sites taking action in solidarity are more than 200 contractors involved in engineering projects at the Selby-based Drax power plant.

The entire complement of over a thousand construction workers staged a mass protest at the Wilton International bioethanol plant on Teesside. They were joined by workers from Teesside Power Station, blocking all five entrances to the massive Ensus site. It is reported that workers at Heerema in Hartlepool were also involved in a walkout in outrage. According to local reports, one worker said, “This is about a much bigger issue, not just about Lindsey Oil. It’s a national show of solidarity. You have to go with your principles. The government and some employers continue to undermine the national agreement, reduce our wages and take away our terms and conditions. This will continue till we get some resolution at Lindsey.”

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A sacked Lindsey Oil Refinery worker, from Middlesbrough, was at the Wilton protest. He said, “I don’t have a job. I’m sacked. I’m having to move out of my house because I’m broke. The support has been brilliant, we’re over the moon with it. Everyone is worried about a day’s wage but there are bigger repercussions here. These lads could get transferred to another job and it could happen to them.”

Another protester said, “A lot of people feel very passionately about this. We want to work, but we are caught between a rock and a hard place. If it happened to me, I would want everyone else to support me.”

One man from Berwick Hills, a union member for 20 years who works as a scaffolder, said, “The police have been a bit heavy-handed with us but it’s a peaceful demonstration. Feelings are running high but we are ok and we are disciplined. We are exercising our right. They have been shoving us and have called in reinforcements and the police helicopter was overhead. I have got three lads to support and I have been out since Friday. If it’s not resolved by Thursday it’s going to be official. I hope for the grace of God it does get sorted out because no one wants to do this.”

About 900 Sellafield contract workers have also been involved in a walkout. About 300 contractors at the Longannet power station in Fife voted to take unofficial strike action in support of the Lindsey oil refinery workers. About 200 other workers based in Scotland at the Cockenzie power station in East Lothian and the Mossmorran plant also joined the action. Other sites where workers have taken action in support of the sacked workers at Lindsey include Didcot power station; Milford Haven, Wales, where more than 200 contract workers walked out of the South Hook LNG terminal; Aberthaw power station in south Wales; Staythorpe power station where around 60 workers took action; Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire where workers walked out; and the Coryton refinery in Essex where workers also walked out in protest. Workers at Eggborough near Goole, East Yorkshire also took action, and E.ON and EDF Energy at facilities in Nottinghamshire were also affected. It is reported that in all up to 4,000 workers at power stations and gas and oil terminals across the whole of Britain have taken action in defence of the rights of the workers and demonstrating the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.

As regards the victimised Lindsey workers, GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said that the union had launched a £100,000 hardship fund to support strikers. "As far as we are concerned, they are victimised and locked-out people, and it is an official dispute from the moment those notices arrived." Paul Kenny said that the GMB was pressing ahead with a national ballot of thousands of workers in the industry. This is likely to result in a national strike by 20,000-30,000 engineering construction workers.

Owing to the stand of the workers and their union representatives, Total have been forced to reverse their policy of “no negotiations”. Talks are due to resume today. The workers' demand is that all the sacked workers at Lindsey must be reinstated.

These are important actions by the Lindsey workers and their fellow contractors throughout the country. Their actions in defence of the rights of all workers, and in defence of their right to a livelihood, are a powerful support to the struggles of all workers for their rights and against monopoly dictate.

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GMB Accuse Senior Managers of Provoking the Unofficial Dispute at Lindsey by the Layoff of Original 51 Workers in Breach of Agreements

GMB revealed on Monday that two senior managers at Lindsey Oil Refinery site Richard Rowlands and Ian Elliot instructed a contractor on site, R Blackett and Charlton, to hire 61 new workers although they knew that the original contractor Shaw were about to make 51 workers, doing exactly the same jobs, redundant three days later. GMB claim that Richard Rowlands and Ian Elliot did this deliberately in breach of agreements and accuse them of provoking the unofficial disputes in the engineering construction industry.

R Blackett and Charlton were brought on site in spring 2009 to be the employer for the 105 new jobs that were created as part of the ACAS brokered deal in the spring. Laying off these 51 workers is in breach of an agreement by Total and the main contractors Jacobs that no workers on the site would lose their jobs as a consequence of IREM taking over part of the work undertaken by the Shaw workers. It was also in breach of the industry wide agreement whereby the Project Joint Council for Lindsey Oil Refinery site, which is co-chaired by Jacob, organises the movement of labour on the site throughout the life of the project.

The trade unions on the site confronted Richard Rowlands and asked him why Jacobs had not requested that R Blackett and Charlton transfer the 51 Shaw workers across as required by the two agreements referred to above. He replied on the record to the trade union officials that he was not prepared to recommend to R Blackett and Charlton “an unruly workforce who had taken part in unofficial disputes and who won’t work weekends”.

GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said on June 21, “GMB is not walking away from the disgraceful and outrageous behaviour of Total at Lindsey. Total would not even consider treating its French workers in this way. GMB will support the locked out and victimised workers and will demonstrate that support with lawful and peaceful protests. GMB call on Total to heed the advice of Lord Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Business and Innovation, for them to get into line and join all the other parties to use ACAS conciliation to resolve this dispute. Total is the only party that is refusing to talk”.

Unions organised a protest demonstration and rally outside the site at Eastfield Road, Immingham, on Tuesday, with union branch banners and trade union and labour movement speakers.

Phil Davies GMB National Secretary, who attended the protest demonstration, said, “Every stone you uncover on this job you find another management lie. It is clear from what Richard Rowlands told the union that there never was any intention to redeploy these workers despite the company agreeing to do this just a few short weeks ago. It is little wonder that the workforce castigate the company as being dishonest. This is a clear case of victimisation on a par with the notorious industry blacklists.”

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