Could this be the first swallow of a spring of industrial unrest – as hoped for in post below – or is it a reactionary strike against foreign workers? I dont know yet…..

‘Hundreds of energy industry contractors have walked out at sites in northern England and Scotland in an escalating protest over the use of foreign labour.

The dispute began at the Lindsey Oil Refinery, North Lincolnshire, on Wednesday after a construction contract was awarded to an Italian firm.

Unions said the contract should have been given to British workers.

In a second day of action, 800 people protested outside the refinery as workers from other sites joined in.

Hundreds of contract workers at the neighbouring Conoco Phillips oil refinery took part in Thursday’s action.

Employees at BP’s Dimlington gas terminal in East Yorkshire and its chemical manufacturing plant in Saltend, Hull, also walked out in support of the Lindsey refinery workers.

There are men here whose fathers and uncles… built this refinery from scratch. It’s outrageous.
Bernard McAuley, Unite union

Unofficial strike action was also taken by workers at Scottish Power’s Longannet power station in Fife.

Total, which owns the Lindsey refinery, said its main refining operations on the 500-acre site remained unaffected by the action.

It also stressed that there would be no direct redundancies as a result of the construction contract being awarded to Italian-based contractor IREM.

Unite union regional officer Bernard McAuley said workers at the refinery had been joined by hundreds of trade unionists and other supporters from around the UK.

He said: “They’ve come from all over the country. We reckon there were almost 1,000 people here today.

“We’ve also had huge numbers of messages of support from people who are incensed by this decision. It’s a total mockery.

Police and protesters at Lindsey Oil Refinery

Police kept a watching brief on the protesters outside the refinery

“There are men here whose fathers and uncles have worked at this refinery, built this refinery from scratch. It’s outrageous.”

The action was set to continue outside the refinery gates on Friday morning, the union said. ‘


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  1. sam johnson

    It doesn’t sound right.Anarchists supporting workers that oppose foreign workers.If it does ,it’s the dawn of a new era.A new way of thinking .Dare we defend the british way of life.Fuck me thats unbelievable.

  2. michael cudworth


  3. (not a direct reply to sam)

    Well, this could go a number of ways – don’t write people off yet. Underneath the bullshit is a simple question of allowing bosses to undercut existing wages and standards by using cheaper labour (irrespective of where it’s come from, it could come from South Wales and the issue would be the same). Allowing it to get buried under the question of foreign workers is only going to help racialise it. Bring out the real class issue as far as possible.

    But real class issues often come out in odd ways – class issues aren’t reflected in clear simple *correct* class politics – people need to be working on those times where it comes out like this, not writing off those involved. (Miners strike/ Page 3 springs to mind).

    We’ve had plenty of instances of similar working situations over recent years where experience and contact has lead to british workers and foreign workers coming to an understanding based on shared class interests and fighting together for equal rates for all groups (or whatever) – which is why these Italians have been kept apart from the existing workers and shunted away into crappy floating prisons. The bosses are well aware of the potential for their scam to come crashing down.

    Fact is, a class on the move isn’t always pretty, but fuck it, it has to move for *anything* at all to happen. People shouldn’t run away now.

  4. Nick

    I’ve been listening to a bit of Radio Tees this morning (work) and the interviews with those on strike have been disgusting. It’s been racist filth at times, no other way of describing it.

    It really is a tough one to call, as whilst job losses must be fought, openly racist abuse cannot be tolerated either.

    I think the bosses knew this would happen, and as Butchers’ Apron said, it’s caused a divide, whereas the British and Italians should be perfectly capable of working together.

    Something to watch out for is that the owner of Corus is Tata who also own Jaguar/Land Rover. All these firms have gone running to the state asking for cash, AFTER sacking the workers. The’ credit crunch’ is just being used as an excuse to sack us and then fleece our money to the rich bastards after we’ve lost our jobs. Even companies unaffected by this are using it as an excuse.

  5. thebristolblogger

    So the government’s bailed out the bosses and now we all have to pay for it with wage cuts and redundancies.

    The racism is just a bit of froth on top of this. As Butcher’s said it might not be pretty but it’s what we’ve got.

  6. Adamski

    A comrade of mine who went down to the picket lines to show some solidarity sent me this comment:

    ‘I think we need to be a little more careful here. The strike is not racist. But the slogan British Jobs for British Workers is widespread. In Aberthaw near Barry in South Wales, strikers were holding up print outs of the slogan as well as a whacking great canvas banner which had the slogan printed on it.

    The steward who spoke to the BBC was at pains to say this wasn’t an attack on foreign workers and used the example of how they had taken Polish workers under their wing as proof of that which was brilliant. But we need to be wary of simply cheering on uncritically – there is a battle of ideas on these picket lines and where socialists are organised in the workplace they need to be arguing against these nationalist notions, not letting them get on with it because they don’t want to alienate themselves from “the lads” over a popular but reactionary slogan.’

    Personally, while these strikes arise from a genuine grievance, there is a strong strand of racism and nationalism that worries me.

    Another comment I read on another blog sums up my thinking:

    ‘It’s all well and good to say that this isn’t a strike against foreign workers, and I’m sure many of the strikers firmly believe that – but that is just an indication of contradictory conciousness amongst workers, not that this is a good strike with a few rotten elements. How can this strike win? By 100 Italian and Polish workers being sacked, 300 Italian workers with contracts to come over here in February being told they can’t have the jobs and the jobs being redistributed to British workers? What kind of victory is that? For the class or the left? If it were to win, anyone who thinks people will be cheering the length and breadth of Britain about how great it is that union organisation in the refinery has been saved is kidding themselves. If this strike wins, so does its odious slogan. If it falls flat, it’s demoralising and will feed the reactionary ideas that shape (if not fuel) the dispute. The only wins worth a fig would be unionising those workers from Italy or switching the strikers crosshairs to the bosses and the government by demanding more jobs are created. Either is a big ask.

    It’s important to be clear that this is not the same as the dockers coming out for Enoch Powell. But nor is it a progressive strike against union busting. It’s a contradictory strike with a distinctly reactionary undertone. We need to bite the bullet and take up these arguments with the strikers where we can. We need to be prepared for a hostile reception. But we also need to try and find a few people with whom our argument chimes, rather than cheerleading and being afraid to go against the grain like the rest of the left seem to be doing.’

  7. D Marl

    It’d be nice to see the italian and portugese workers striking in solidarity.

  8. Well put together Adamski.

  9. Dameocrat

    The workers are right. Using foreign workers to cut wages is wrong. But the signs should read, “No cheap labor!” or “No race to the bottom!” not “British Jobs for British Workers!” This is the labor union version of triangulation to appeal to nationalist sentiments, to fight lowered wages, but it doesn’t work when so many people in the west today, do not have ancestry from the country they live in.

  10. bankster

    I recommend that you all go long, then I’ll sell you short and we can go back to where we were.

  11. michael cudworth

    There seems to be a little confusion or misconception. Its not a matter of cheap labour as ever contractor MUST be paid the same rate but it is a case of skuldugery,let me try to explain
    1-a company hires a UK workforce and pays ‘bluebook’ rates.
    2- a company hires a NON UK workforce and pays ‘bluebook’ rates BUT must also pay Flights ,food and accomodation –
    The skuldugery comes in by convincing everyone choice 2 is the economical one, then the LABOUR
    Prime minister refuses to accept we have a valid arguement

  12. exmarxist

    ‘There are men here whose fathers and uncles… built this refinery from scratch.’
    Is this a boast? What twats were they then? Have the working class got an ‘exploited’ gene in them somewhere?

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