Protests against foreign energy workers spreads
February 4, 2009
Wildcat strikes against foreign workers spread through oil refineries and other energy facilities, fueled by fears of rising job cuts. According to the AFP, a protest started at the third-largest oil refinery, Lindsey in Lincolnshire, where workers walked out over the use of Italian and Portuguese contractors on a 200-million-pound building project. Eventually it spread to other refineries and plants across the country, where unemployment is currently at its highest rate in 10 years as the credit crunch hits hard. Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned against trade protectionism as a response to the worldwide economic downturn. EU law enshrines the right to the freedom of movement for workers between member countries. Up to 1,000 workers demonstrated peacefully for several hours at Lindsey, run by French oil company Total. They cited Brown''s pledge and held up placards saying "Right To Work UK Workers" amid a heavy police presence. That protest has now ended but those involved vowed they would be back. The BBC reported that 1,000 workers at the Milford Haven gas terminal had gone on strike in sympathy. Hundreds also protested at six other sites including Grangemouth, Scotland''s only oil refinery; a refinery in Wilton, and Aberthaw power station in south Wales. The dispute stems from Total''s award of the contract to build a new desulphurization unit at the Lindsey site to Italian company IREM. Around 100 Italian and Portuguese workers, who live on barges in a nearby docks, work there currently and are set to be joined by 300 more next month. The Employment Minister asked Acas, the organization that is intended to resolve employment disputes, to investigate quickly and report to the government, employers and the trade unions. Unemployment in Britain has risen sharply in recent months, with thousands of job cuts at firms like steelmaker Corus. Two million people are jobless and the unemployment rate is 6.1 percent.