BP faces wave of protests at AGM
Wednesday 13 April 2011
Oil giant BP is facing a wave of protests as it holds its annual general meeting in London days before the first anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
Fishermen and women from the US Gulf Coast who were hit by the massive oil spill that followed the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last April will be at the AGM tomorrow as shareholders.
They will be joined by indigenous communities who are angry at BP's involvement in tar sands extraction in Canada, while activists will be holding protests outside the AGM and around London in the coming week against the oil giant.
Scores of workers involved in a dispute at a BP-owned biofuels plant near Hull will also stage a demonstration outside the meeting, some dressed as an oil slick, linking their row with the firm's "irresponsible" behaviour in the Gulf.
They will be accompanied by a Mexican band as well as waving flags and banners with slogans saying: BP Workers - Locked Out But Not Knocked Out.
Hundreds of workers say they have been "locked out" of the contract to build the new plant at Saltend, near Hull, after the project fell behind schedule
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: "We are organising for the locked out workers to come to London to draw attention to the irresponsible behaviour of BP and link it to the oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico."
Talks aimed at resolving the row are due to start at the conciliation service Acas.
Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman from Texas who protested when then BP chief executive Tony Hayward's gave evidence to a US Congressional committee, says she is going to the meeting to "call BP to account for its actions in the Gulf".
"The massive nature of the oil catastrophe means it can't be covered up, even by BP," she said.
"It's everywhere, from 5,000ft down to miles upon miles across and then spread in the ocean's currents.
"I am coming to articulate the anger of thousands of Gulf Coast residents whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed while the BP board continues to prosper."
The group of Gulf Coast residents will be in the AGM with representatives of Canadian indigenous communities who are protesting over BP's involvement in extracting "tar sands", a heavily polluting form of oil, in their territories.
BP is also expected to face further shareholder ire over boardroom bonuses and its handling of a potential £10 billion share-swap deal with Russian government-owned Rosneft, which is on the verge of collapse.
The Association of British Insurers has given an "amber top" alert to the remuneration report, warning over bonuses paid to two top executives - finance director Byron Grote and downstream chief Iain Conn - for 2010.
The Rosneft deal was put on hold after shareholders at its current Russian partner TNK-BP said the agreement breached its obligations with TNK-BP. The deadline for the deal - tomorrow - is yet to be extended.
Direct action groups are also planning to target institutions which accept sponsorship from BP this week.
Campaigners from groups including Rising Tide, Climate Rush and Climate Camp London are organising a flashmob at Tate Modern on April 17 and a series of other - as yet unannounced - protests at various locations in London.
Tony Cottee of Rising Tide said: "One year after its public image took a bashing in the Gulf of Mexico, BP continues to plough headlong into environmentally destructive, unconventional sources of oil, while ignoring the rights of affected communities.
"It's clear that BP has learnt nothing over the last year. The time has now come for our cultural institutions to say enough is enough and break off their relationships with BP once and for all."
The campaigners are concerned at BP's involvement with the tar sands extraction in Canada, drilling in the Arctic and claims of human rights abuses in Turkey.
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