Strike ends at UK oil refinery

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Workers at the UK's Lindsey Oil Refinery have voted to return to work.

The week-long strike at the refinery began over the issuing by French owners Total S.A. of a contract to an Italian company, who brought in Italian and Portuguese workers. The unofficial strike had led to similar unofficial sympathy strikes across the country.

The deal to end the strike will see around 100 jobs being offered to British workers. Additionally, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who had repeatedly criticized the strikers, has agreed to review laws governing foreign workers. Unions have warned that, while this action was now over, the country could see further action at other sites with larger numbers of foreign workers. Phil Whitehurst of the GMB union said "It was an excellent decision. We have now got the chance to go back to work but the fight does not stop here". Derek Simpson of the Unite union pointed to Staythorpe Power Station in Nottinghamshire as a potential source of problems. The site has Spanish contractors, although Unite said that they had no evidence the foreign workers there were undercutting UK staff.

Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire
Image: TomGreen.

Gordon Brown's agreement to look into laws on the free transfer of labour within the European Union came during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. A review has been set up to look into the issue and he told the House, "When they have reached their conclusions we will look at what they have to say".

The Times points out that this may conflict with Business Secretary Lord Mandelson's statement on Sunday, where he said that "[i]t is not European law that has caused this problem for us". German politicians have called for a European-wide review, something opposed by the British and Polish governments and the European Commission.