Protesters Block Roads in British Wildcat Strikes

May 20, 2009
Dispute over hiring of foreign workers

Hundreds of protesters blocked roads near an oil refinery in Britain May 20, as other sites were hit by a second day of wildcat strikes in a dispute over hiring foreign workers, police said. About 800 workers and demonstrators mounted the protest at the refinery at South Killingholme, northeast England which comes months after a rash of similar action across Britain.

Workers also held strikes at a liquefied natural gas terminal at Milford Haven in West Wales, and an oil refinery in Lincolnshire, eastern England. The strikers complained that a contracting firm broke an agreement to give jobs to local workers at the South Hook site in Milford Haven when it hired a number of Polish workers.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "We understand that an agreement to give work on these large projects to local labor has been breached."

One worker, who asked not to be named, described as "rubbish" claims by the contractor at Milford Haven that it had experienced difficulty finding local labour to fill the jobs. "This is an unemployment blackspot and there is an agreement that local labor will be considered first, which hasn't happened. This is nothing to do with race -- it is all about a level playing field for local workers."

A second day of talks was held in a bid to resolve the dispute.The walkouts come months after a bitter dispute at a different oil refinery in Lincolnshire over a decision to reward a 200-million-pound (US$ 311 million) contract to an Italian company.

Workers at the Lindsey plant had argued they were being barred from applying for jobs because the Italian firm wanted to use its own Italian and Portuguese staff.

After spreading to energy facilities across Britain in February, the strike ended when more than 300 British workers at the plant accepted a deal under which they were offered about half the jobs on the contract.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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