Construction: victory for the solidarity strikes!

Submitted by martin on 19 June, 2009 - 9:00 Author: Martin Thomas

29 June: the BBC reports - "Construction workers at the Lindsey oil refinery have voted to accept a deal that will see them return to work after weeks of strike action.

"The deal is said to involve the reinstatement of 647 workers sacked for taking unofficial industrial action.

Unions now say they have secured other jobs for the 51 workers [who were told early in June that they would be laid off] as well as reinstating 647 employees at the site who were on strike.

Read more:

19 June: Construction contractors at the Lindsey Oil Refinery site in Lincolnshire have responded to strike action over jobs by sacking the entire workforce and shutting down the construction project.

Read also:

According to BBC News, "Total [the refinery owner] said any contract staff who wanted to return to the site could reapply for positions until Monday [22nd].

"The construction project will remain closed in the meantime."

BBC News quotes Total as saying: "Total can confirm, with regret, that our contractors have now started the process of ending the current employment contracts for their workforce on the HDS-3 construction project."

This is straightforward union-busting, on the model of the Gate Gourmet dispute in 2005. Walk-outs at many other construction sites had already taken place in support of the Lindsey action, and will now escalate.

Unfortunately, union leaders have responded feebly. Unite officials said: "We are urging all parties to get back around the negotiating table to resolve this situation." GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: "I'm appealing to Total to actually come to the table and help the unions resolve it."

The recent strike action at Lindsey was over the sacking of 51 workers, which they saw as victimisation for their part in previous strikes in January-February over the displacement of workers already on site in favour of "posted" workers not covered by the national union agreement for the engineering construction industry and brought in from a non-union Italian subcontractor.


Submitted by martin on Fri, 19/06/2009 - 12:24

This is the statement from the refinery owner, Total. It talks of restarting the construction project "next week" (i.e. week beginning 22 June), but does not say with what workforce.

19 June 2009

Total can confirm, with regret, that our contractors have now started the process of ending the current employment contracts for their workforce on the HDS-3 (hydro-desulphurisation) construction project.

The contractor workforce has been engaged in an unofficial, illegal walk out since last Thursday, 11th June. This action has been repudiated by both the Unite and GMB unions.

The main contract company, Jacobs, and Total have repeatedly sought to encourage the workforce to return to work so that proper negotiations can take place. This is in line with the union and industry agreed process that negotiations over illegal strikes cannot commence until the workforce has returned to work. It is frustrating and disappointing that these attempts have failed.

All current employees of the contractor workforce who wish to work on the project, will be given the opportunity to reapply for positions on the HDS-3 construction project until 5pm on Monday 22nd June.

The HDS-3 construction project will remain closed whilst necessary preparatory work is completed to allow the project to be restarted next week. This project is of significant importance to the local area, and will help secure the future of the refinery and local employment for many years to come, as well as securing product supply for the UK in the future. At all times during the unofficial walkouts by the contractor workforce, Total, Jacobs and the sub-contracting companies have remained committed to the terms and conditions of the national agreement for the unions and construction industries.

The refinery continues to operate as normal and has not been affected by this action.

Submitted by martin on Sat, 20/06/2009 - 09:52

The Financial Times (20 June) reports:

1. Total bosses "decided not to go ahead with talks" with unions and the government conciliation service ACAS on 19 June.

2. Shaw and Jacobs, the two main Lindsey subcontractors, have sacked their employees, while other subcontractors have just locked them out. The FT reckons that about 1200 construction workers are involved altogether, of whom 647 have been sacked.

Submitted by martin on Mon, 22/06/2009 - 10:09

The GMB has called a rally in support of the Lindsey workers, at Eastfield Road, Immingham, DN 40 3LW from 6.30am on Tuesday 23 June.

According to BBC News, the sacked Lindsey workers are planning to burn their notices of dismissal on the picket line this morning, 22 June.

At Didcot power station this morning, 22 June, construction workers held a brief meeting and decided to stay on strike in support of the Lindsey workers. They are not picketing at Didcot, but going north to help picket lines there.

Submitted by martin on Mon, 22/06/2009 - 10:53

Pete Radcliff reports:

80 people on picket line at Ratcliffe-on-Soar.

No full time officials. UNITE officialdom widely disliked especially by UNITE members. Talk about people transferring to GMB, who they felt were on their side.

I asked how were they organising so well? Ambiguous answers about wonders of mobile phones. But how did they make their contacts - were they former workmates, did they meet up at union events? Just furtive looks in reply.

Bearfacts website advertised quite a bit. None of their earlier 'British jobs for British workers' as far as I can see. But a slogan about no discrimation against British workers - don't have exact words.

There is no evidence of on-plant organisation, just buddies looking after each other. Some just joining the union this week it appears.

As it was, they agreed to meet up again on the picket line and decide whether they go in or not. They were under the impression that there were talks today and that there would be something to report back.

Submitted by martin on Wed, 24/06/2009 - 09:00

Elaine Jones reports (24 June): About 400 workers were at a mass meeting outside the refinery today. They voted to stay out in solidarity with the Lindsey workers and meet again on Friday.

Anthony Fields, Unite rep, and Gerry Hughes, GMB rep, said that workers were angry about the mass sackings at Lindsey. "There are people involved in this dispute who until a few weeks ago would have not have dreamed of this sort of action".

The striking workers are employed for maintenance, rather than building new plant. Their current policy is to help fix it if there is an emergency in the refinery, but if they are out for any time it will affect production in the refinery.

There were no placards or banners. The union reps said that as far as they were concerned, the dispute is not about nationalist or racist goals, but union agreements. The BNP have not come down with their "British Jobs For British Workers" agitation, but if they did come they would be chased off; however, the union reps said, there is a variety of views in the workforce, including workers who would agree with some BNP ideas.

Submitted by TB on Wed, 24/06/2009 - 13:29

By the time I left the picket this morning at 7.30 there were about 250 workers on the picket line with numbers still growing. They were coming to express solidarity with those contractors at Staythorpe who were sacked by Alsthom (the principal contractor) two days ago for taking unofficial strike action in support of those sacked at Lindsey last week. With limited success some pickets attempted to turn back those entering the site but annoyed by the scabbing the protesters took to the road and effectively blocked the two entrances to the site. They were probably encouraged in this by the fact that there was a much smaller police presence than normal.

It was also noticeable that there didn’t seem to be as many shop stewards actively marshalling the demo and that there weren’t the usual contingents of pickets arriving by coach. Most of those picketing here today had been at Lindsey the day before, one of them said that Matt Wrack gave a much better speech than any of the leaders from Unite and GMB but there was a feeling that GMB are giving a better lead than Unite.

And that’s why I’m surprised that there doesn’t seem to be any sustained public rank and file organising efforts, this dispute has been going for some time now and the official leadership has been uninspiring. Even the announcement that the dispute is going to be made official didn’t seem to enthuse people that much today. The workforce is militant and they show each other solidarity. I can understand rank and file leaders feeling worried about their job security but maybe the fantastic solidarity that has been demonstrated in the industry will give them the courage to come forward.

A few workers were using the phrase “British workers first” as a reason to get rid of some Polish workers on the site. When I said that they were probably being paid less than the rate for the job one of them said that the Poles were on the same wages. I was sceptical about this until I realised that he might have been talking about Polish workers working for the same contractor as he was. There were no BJFBW placards or chants but if somebody doesn’t offer these workers a socialist lead then this sentiment will grow.

Submitted by martin on Fri, 26/06/2009 - 09:30

On 26 June BBC news reported: "Unions said the deal involved the reinstatement of 647 workers sacked for taking unofficial strike action and would be put to the workers on Monday [29th].

"The workers went on strike on 11 June after a sub-contractor cut 51 jobs.

"It is thought those workers will also be offered jobs".

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.