Mike Fenwick reports from the mass meeting of construction workers at Lindsey Oil Refinery on 4 February.
We arrived at 6.30. There were only 50 pickets already there, lower than the numbers previously.
The talk was of the proposed deal that the press had announced as being agreed overnight - that the jobs would split 50:50 between Italian workers and locals.
As far as I understood that would mean not Italian workers being sent home, but not so many more arriving to take their number up.
Initial reaction to those arriving having heard this on the news was negative. Mostly because of what were seen as practical difficulties of running a bi-lingual site. There were also some comments about the work practices of the Italian workers and the health and safety consequences. That sort of craft chauvinism was quite prevalent. There was also doubts about harmonious working together on the site because of the friction already generated.
We asked workers about the BNP. Workers downplayed the significance of the BNP's attempted intervention. The BNP seems to have been more prominent on the internet than on the ground.
On the "British Jobs For British Workers" slogan, some seemed unrepentant and definitely chauvinist. Some obviously seemed to think it had been daft tactically, and some others that it shouldn't have been used. I'm afraid I can't begin to quantify 'some' in any more detail.
What I can report is that there was not one of the "British Jobs For British Workers" posters seen previously. Socialist Party members involved in the dispute had some internationalist slogans on placards that two full timers were holding up. Beyond, that one UNITE flag and two Union Jacks with the "British Jobs For British Workers" slogan running through the St Georges cross were the sum of what was on display.
One accurate statistic I can report is that the meeting was 100% white and male. The only women around were from the press and SWP. The workers were, however, by no means all British: a good number were Irish.
By the time the meeting started, I estimate there were 500 there. The mass meeting was very good. The stike committee made clear from word go they had not negotiated a 50:50 deal and they wouldn't agree to anything without the say-so of the strikers. If it had been agreed by the bosses and the union bosses, it still meant nothing until the strikers had discussed it.
The closing speech was on the theme "workers of the world unite".
The report was followed by a period of questions and then finally a vote which unaninimously rejected the deal. On jobs workers said they were after the 50/50 ratio that had been reported, but that hadn't actually been offered to them. They wanted that split deliberately to show they were being fair and not wanting to be seen as driving out the Italians already here.
The meeting seemed very democratic with all questions, even awkward ones, answered directly by the strike committee. They left to go and negotiate further. [Another mass meeting, later in the day, accepted a revised offer, leaving more jobs open to locally-recruited labour operating under the national union agreement].
There was some escalation of police presence on the picket lines, and the police handed out a public order notice making it clear how important the refinery was and any threat to disrupt it would lead to arrest. Workers saw that as preliminary to use of the anti-union laws.
But the Government seems to be playing carrot and stick: I suspect the Government will announce some review of the UK implementation of the European Union's 1996 "Posting of Workers Directive".
Our leaflet went down ok. The idea with most resonance was the demand to "open the books" on the IREM subcontract.
Martin Thomas reports: Maybe 50 to 100 workers from around Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire, where a new power station is being built, protested outside the London headquarters of Alstom (the main contractor for the project) on 5 February.
The protest had been organised officially by the Unite union, and seemed pretty much under official control. Workers on the protest - chiefly unemployed construction workers who had hoped to get jobs on the Staythorpe project - were happy enough to take Workers' Liberty leaflets and talk to us, but referred us to full-time officials when we asked for an interview about the protest.
There were no "British Jobs For British Workers" placards. The placards and banners were all official union ones, asking for "fair treatment" for UK workers. The demands on Alstom were fairly vague, and did not seem to include the call for Alstom to hire labour directly rather than splitting up the workforce by using subcontractors.
Interpretations of this varied among workers we spoke to, though pretty much all of them were emphatic in rejecting the BNP.
One younger worker stressed that "it isn't a matter of insisting that all workers have fair hair and blue eyes". By UK workers he meant workers living in the UK, whether recent immigrants or from long-settled families, and whether of British or other citizenship.
The issue, as he saw it, was one of employers undermining union agreements by recruiting low-paid non-union groups of workers elsewhere and taking advantage of the EU judgements to bring them to work outside the negotiated agreements.
He agreed that a good way of resolving it would be European Union legislation guaranteeing "posted" workers the protections of the union agreements and laws in both the country they are "posted" from and the country they are "posted" to, so that on every issue whichever country's provisions were more favourable would apply. Workers across Europe could unite on such a proposal, rather than being set against each other.
Other workers nodded agreement to the definition of "UK workers" as workers living here, regardless of migrant status, but saw the issues in more nationalist terms. "I don't hold with all this European stuff", said one. "I'm British, me. My forefathers fought for this country". Others complained of there being "too many" Polish workers in Britain, and alleged non-British workers had lower skills.
RWE is building a new gas-fired power station at Staythorpe, in Nottinghamshire. The issues there, according to the Unite union website, are as follows:
Alstom has been contracted by RWE to build a gas fired power station near Newark. Two companies, Montpressa and FMM, have been subcontracted to carry out construction work on the site. These two non-UK contracting companies say they have no intention of employing any UK labour to undertake the work...
Unite estimates that 600 jobs will be needed to build the power station's turbine and boiler. Montpressa will fit the turbine and FMM will fit the boiler. A further 250 workers will be required to build the pipe connecting the two. None of these jobs will go to UK workers...
FMM told union officials that because they had no direct employees themselves, they would supply their workers directly from abroad...
Alstom has been contracted by Eon to build a gas-fired power station near Grain in Kent. Unite sought assurances that Alstom would provide a level playing field for UK workers during the process for sub-contracting. The union pressed Alstom to include a clause in the tendering process so that any sub contractor would endeavour to use UK or local labour.
Alstom refused and then appointed a non-UK construction company, Remak, to build the boiler. The union has been informed that Remak will not use any UK labour.