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Victory for wildcat strikers

IMC-UK Features | 12.02.2009 18:12 | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements

Thousands of workers in the construction industry who walked out in solidarity with workers at the Lindsey oil refinery run by Total in Killingholme, Lincolnshire, have won a significant victory. Strikers at Lindsey voted to accept a deal drawn up by union officials and the companies involved in the dispute and end their unofficial industrial action on Thursday 5th February.

The government and media have been keen to present this as a nationalist or even "racist" dispute and the ever-opportunistic BNP made efforts to capitalise on the struggle. Certainly there have been reactionary elements within the strike and the "British jobs for British workers" slogan, which echoes Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is unerringly reminiscent of the far-right. Nevertheless, the politics of the strike were complicated and at Langage Power Station near Plymouth, Polish workers joined strikers.

Regional Feature: Workers walk out at Staythorpe

Newswire: Strikes in oil refineries and power stations | British jobs for British workers - Green jobs for Green workers? | Oil and Power strikes: News, Resouces and analysis | Wildcat strikes in Newark | Today's wildcat strikes in the UK oil and now nuke business | Wildcat strikes - an open letter to the anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement | A 'Racist' Strike? | BNP activists agitating at wildcat strikes

Links: ConstructionWorkerUk | Unite the Union | Indymedia UK Workers Movements topic page

The wave of wildcat strikes was one of the largest waves of working class militancy in decades with walkouts across the country. Among the sites affected were Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, the Heysham nuclear power station in Lancashire, Fiddlers Ferry power station in Cheshire, Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire and South Hook LNG gas terminal in Milford.

The dispute flared up on January 28 after it emerged that an Italian company contracted to work on the project would ship in its own employees rather than using local labour. Walkouts by workers at the refinery spawned a wave of solidarity strikes across the country.

Strikers argued that they were actively discriminated against by subcontractors who refused to allow them to apply for work. The deal will not see any Italian workers losing their jobs. Strike committee member Tony Ryan said: "It's been a hard week for the lads, this week they've stood out in all weathers. It's been a hard-fought fight, and I'm glad the lads are back at work, earning money again, and the Italian lads are still here."

All of these actions took place outside the trade union bureaucracy (although Unite has been an influential player in the dispute) and were completely illegal under the anti-trade union legislation. This does not appear to have deterred strikers and so far there has been little indication that anybody will face legal consequences for the walkouts.

While workers have been victorious at Lindsey, similar arrangements are in place at other sites. In Staythorpe near Newark in Nottinghamshire, subcontractors at the site of a new power station have refused to employ UK labour. Unemployed workers have been protesting there since November and it was one of the facilities which saw solidarity walkouts. The dispute there continues and on Saturday 7th January, a protest was held outside the offices of Alstom who are running the project.

IMC-UK Features


Hide the following 4 comments


12.02.2009 19:55

That's great that this series of struggles gets an Indymedia article!


An injury to one is an injury to all - unite to save jobs.

13.02.2009 14:14

To: Trades Union Congress

An injury to one is an injury to all - unite to save jobs.

Thousands of construction workers have been out on unofficial strike at major sites across Britain. As the jobs slaughter continues many working people are rightly worried for the future. The behaviour of the sub-contracting bosses, in housing Italian workers separately, adds to this fear and division.

Across the whole of Europe, including Britain, thousands of jobs are being lost every day with no end in sight. Governments have handed hundreds of billions of pounds to the bankers but have told working people that they must pay the price for the crisis. But there is resistance. Last week a million French workers were out on strike against Nicolas Sarkozy's "reforms", Greek workers and farmers have been fighting to defend their livelihoods, in Ireland 400 workers are occupying Waterford Glass. In all of these examples of a fightback, the anger needs to be focused on those responsible -the employers and bankers out to protect their profits, and their allies in government.

We oppose the spread of neoliberalism across Europe, and support the unity of all workers to defend jobs and living standards, equal pay, binding national agreements negotiated by trade unions, and equal legal status for all, regardless of nationality. We oppose the ‘contracting out’ and privatisation system that uses competition to drive down wages and conditions.

We can sense the mood for a fightback in Britain. However, the slogan "British jobs for British workers" that has come to prominence around the dispute can only lead to deep divisions inside working class communities. The slogan, coined by Gordon Brown in his 2007 speech to Labour's conference, is being taking up by the right wing press and the Nazi BNP. These are forces that have always been bitterly hostile to the trade union movement.

That is why, while supporting action to defend jobs, we believe that the action has to be directed against the employers and the contracting firms, not against migrant workers. We congratulate those strikers who ejected the BNP from the picket line at Immingham, and we urge other strikers to do the same. We support the demands of the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike committee.

We need a massive drive to unionise all workers, and a campaign to defend all jobs and create new ones. Every worker will benefit from a campaign to unionise overseas workers in order to prevent employers from using them as a weapon against fellow workers. Most importantly, we have to have unity if we are to fight back against the effects of the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s. "British jobs for British workers" is a slogan that focuses on what divides working people not what can unite them.

Every worker is facing the same horrors in the face of recession. We can't let ourselves be divided. We should fight for well-paid jobs with decent conditions for all.

We support:

• The march for workers’ rights, and for global and environmental justice on 28 March in London on the eve of the G20 summit. This protest is supported by some 40 organisations including trade unions, the TUC, and campaigning groups. It is a protest against the neo-liberal policies that have encouraged ‘contracting out’ and competitive wage cutting.
• The protest called by Stop the War, CND and others on 2 April at the G20 summit itself.


The Undersigned
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Union Leadership

17.02.2009 11:42

The problem last week and at Cowley today is the same - “our” union doing deals with employers at the expense of workers to keep New Labour happy.

A while ago inside Amicus there were various national agreements to protect workers wages and conditions, these were variously known as the Green Book and the Blue Book, the JIB and offhand I think there was also a Yellow Book. Under the leadership of Derek Simpson my Union now known as the Amicus section of Unite set about doing away with these national agreements.

One effect of this was to agree with the employers and the government to build the Olympics with foreign workers at the British minimum wage. In fact there are hardly any foreign workers at all constructing the Olympics buildings; technically what we have is foreign workers brought
to London, housed in portacabins and the like. Because they are there resident in London they are not foreign. The Union, my union, Unite, not only allowed this they allow these workers to be paid on the minimum wage.

I went to Grangemouth and the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire. I talked to strikers and none NOT ONE had the slightest gripe about foreign workers as such. The complaint time and time again was that the union had allowed the government to let the bosses bring in cheap labour to
undercut national wage and conditions agreements.

Now we have the very same union leaders who destroyed national agreements telling us how much they are looking after the interests of the membership.

One of the union leaders who helped destroy the national agreements is Kevin Coyne another such leader is Derek Simpson. Both are candidates in the election in my union for General Secretary. Both tell us that they and they alone can deliver the policies that best protect the
interests of their members. Each of these is perfectly awful. Both these people actively ensured the implementation of policies that have led directly to the problems we have today - so what would you prefer, a dose of cholera or typhus

There is however a third candidate in the election called Jerry Hicks. Hicks is the very person responsible for this election being called. He is the only person to have policies that are the complete opposite of Simpson and Coyne. His policies are the only policies that can see
ordinary workers weather the coming storm. If like the Cowley workers you are an agency worker you can be certain that it is your head that will be on the chopping block before all others. Although this election is for the General Secretary of the Amicus Section of Unite it is an election for all of us.

No bosses No masters
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a victory?

21.02.2009 02:30

No new jobs.
102 unemployed italian workers.
The far-right and racists given a major pr boost in a time of economic crisis.
An example which, if spread across Europe, will result in huge number of british workers being laid off.

Not exactly solidarity along class lines or even a victory i'd say.