900 workers sacked at oil refinery

French firm Total fires staff at Lindsey refinery after they walk out on strike
Click to follow

Nearly 900 workers at the Lindsey oil refinery in north Lincolnshire were sacked last night after attempts to resolve unofficial strike action by 1,200 contract staff in a dispute over redundancies reached deadlock.

The workers walked out last Thursday after 51 jobs were cut, apparently in breach of an agreement they had with Total, the company that owns the plant, not to lay off any staff. But Total claims that no fixed agreements regarding job retention were ever in place.

Managers at the refinery confirmed yesterday that the 900 workers had been sacked after they refused a request to return to work. They have been given until 5pm on Monday to reapply for their jobs.

A statement from Total last night said: "Total can confirm, with regret, that our contractors have now started the process of ending the current employment contracts for their workforce.

"[They have] been engaged in an unofficial, illegal walk out since last Thursday. This action has been repudiated by both the Unite and GMB unions. The main contract company, Jacobs, and Total have repeatedly sought to encourage the workforce to return to work so that proper negotiations can take place. It is frustrating and disappointing that these attempts have failed."

The Unite union said last night it was "extremely concerned" at Total's actions and is understood to be working behind the scenes to facilitate immediate talks with the company's local management. A spokesman said: "We are urging all parties to get back around the negotiating table to resolve this situation."

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, added that he had been in touch with the conciliation service Acas and was seeking an urgent meeting with the head of Total in an attempt to break the deadlock.

News of the sackings ended a dramatic week for oil refineries across the country after the industrial action spread across several sites in England. They included the power stations at Drax and Eggborough in Yorkshire, Ratcliffe and West Burton in Nottinghamshire, Fiddlers Ferry in Cheshire and Aberthaw in South Wales. Contractors at a BP refinery near Hull also joined the action.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for Drax, Britain's largest coal-fired power station, said that 200 staff had not turned up for work at the North Yorkshire plant, but added that there had been no interruption to electricity generation. Meanwhile E.ON, which was also hit by walkouts, said that homes would not be affected.