lundi 2 février 2009

› Energy wildcats continue to spread across the UK

The wave of wildcat strike action that has swept across the UK escalated today as hundreds more workers walked out in the protest against the use of foreign labour at the expense of local jobs.

Contract workers from the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, the Heysham nuclear power station in Lancashire and a site at Staythorpe, in Nottinghamshire, joined the unofficial action over the hiring of Italian and Portuguese workers on a Lincolnshire power station project.

Workers from the Longannet power station in Scotland joined those at the Grangemouth oil refinery, who voted to continue their strike, while 200 employees at Fiddlers Ferry power station in Widnes, Cheshire, also walked out this morning.

In west Wales, up to 500 contractors at the South Hook LNG gas terminal in Milford Haven downed tools for a second day. Many of the strikers took part in a similar protest on Friday. Around 150 contract workers at Aberthaw power station, in south Wales, also walked out.

Outside the Lindsey oil refinery in Killingholme, Lincolnshire, where the protests began, more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered for a mass meeting, voting unanimously to allow union officials to start talks with management.

Gordon Brown said the unofficial strikes sweeping the country were "counter-productive". Speaking at a joint press conference, Brown said his priority was to promote the jobs of British workers in the face of the current recession.

About 600 mechanical contractors met at the Sellafield site's Yottenfews car park at 7.30am to agree a 24-hour walkout in support of the Lindsey action.

One of the strikers, the GMB convener Willie Doggert, said: "All we want is a level playing field. It's not just about foreign workers. We need jobs to be advertised with transparency so that everybody gets a fair crack of the whip at getting them."

A similar row has been raging at Staythorpe for months and several demonstrations have been held to protest that UK workers were being overlooked in favour of foreign staff. Around 700 contractors at the Grangemouth oil refinery in central Scotland walked out again today after unofficial action on Friday. They decided they would return to work tomorrow.

Total said talks would be held today with the conciliation service Acas, senior union representatives and Jacobs, the main contractor at Lindsey.

The wildcat action began after the Italian company IREM won a £200m construction contract and supplied its own permanent workforce. It is understood 100 Italian and Portuguese workers are already on site and 300 more are expected in the coming days and weeks. On Friday, up to 3,000 workers from at least 11 oil refineries and power plants in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland mounted protests and unofficial strikes over the contract.

Mass meetings
The wildcat strikes have been organised by huge mass meetings of strikers involved. At the Grangemouth oil refinery, about 500 contractors, who took unofficial action on Friday, walked out again today (Monday 2nd Feb) following a mass meeting.

About 400 workers at Longannet, in Fife, have voted to stay out on strike for 24 hours and return to hold another mass meeting at 7:30am on tomorrow (Tuesday 3rd). About 130 at Scottish Power's Cockenzie Power Station are also taking part in the action, along with 80 contractors at ExxonMobil's petrochemicals plant in Mossmorran and 150 workers at the Shell plant.

Last Friday saw over 1,400 workers take wildcat action across Scotland, in solidarity with those at the Lindsey Oil Refinery.

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