Oil workers end strike after job offer

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Oil refinery workers who walked out in a dispute over foreign labour agreed to return to work today.

Hundreds of workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery, in North Lincolnshire, voted to end their unofficial industrial action after accepting a deal drawn up by union officials and companies at the heart of the row.

Under the deal, 102 new jobs will be provided to UK workers on a project which was contracted to an Italian company.

Around 300 workers packed into a marquee at the North Killingholme site to vote on the proposals.

Loud cheers could be heard coming from the behind-closed-doors meeting as the workers discussed the issues.

Staff will return to work at the plant on Monday.

The dispute began on Wednesday last week after it was revealed the Italian company contracted to the project would bring its own construction engineering staff.

The unofficial strike action sparked copycat protests from thousands of workers at power stations and other construction sites across the country.

Phil Whitehurst, a member of the negotiating committee for the GMB union, said he was delighted with the vote.

He said: "It was an excellent decision. We have now got the chance to go back to work but the fight does not stop here. The fight continues at Staythorpe and anywhere else where an injustice is being done.

"It was a unanimous decision. It was an excellent vote.

"We have got the MPs worried. I think we have got Gordon Brown worried. I don't think they know how to deal with us. We are not trying to bring the Government down, we're just trying to get them to listen.

"If you look at the PMQs (Prime Minister's questions) that man (Gordon Brown) was seriously rattled. He couldn't get a sentence out.

"There was an uprising here but I don't think it's going to stop. We have started it but I think it's going to carry on elsewhere."

Tony Ryan, a member of the strike committee, said the vote to return to work was almost unanimous.

He said that the staff had chosen to return to work on Monday to enable them to rest over the weekend.

He said: "It's been a hard week for the lads, this week they've stood out in all weathers, the weather has been atrocious."

Mr Ryan said the workers were now going to join a similar protest at Staythorpe, in Nottinghamshire, tomorrow to show their support.

"This is only the start of the fight for us lads, British workers are being discriminated against up and down the length of the country," he said.

Mr Ryan said he was "very glad" they had resolved the dispute.

He said: "It's been a hard-fought fight, and I am glad the lads are back at work, earning money again, and the Italian lads are still here.

"I'm proud of the workers for what they've achieved, and I would like to say that Total and Jacobs have been very receptive, very co-operative and understanding of our concerns."

Keith Gibson, a member of the strike committee for the GMB union, said he was pleased with the result.

He said: "The lads have been off work for a week now without pay and they are pleased to go back to work.

"However the fight continues. It does not stop here. There are approximately 200 to 300 who are going down to Staythorpe where they are going to protest there.

Mr Gibson said he believed 2009 would be a difficult year for working people.

He added: "I think this year working people will understand the situation the country is in. Over the coming months there are going to be major battles over jobs. There are thousands and thousands of jobs in this country under threat because of the financial situation."

Total said it was pleased with the return to work vote, adding: "We look forward to working with the contractors on the £200 million expansion project (HDS-3) that will help to secure the future of the refinery and local employment for many years to come.

"We would like to highlight again that we have not, and will not, discriminate against British companies and British workers.

"We remain absolutely committed to the UK workforce. Total and Jacobs, our main contractor, proposed to the unions during talks that 102 extra workers will be employed on the HDS-3 project.

"We hope this is a further demonstration of our commitment to local employment opportunities.

"These additional workers will be employed in new positions and work alongside IREM and its permanent workforce. There will be no redundancies as a result of this announcement."

Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, said: "This is a good deal which establishes the principle of fair access for UK workers on British construction projects.

"We now expect other companies in the construction industry to level the playing field for UK workers.

"The workers involved in the unofficial strike can now get back to work.

"Lindsey is part of a much wider problem that will not go away just because the workers at Lindsey have voted to go back to work.

"There are still employers who are excluding UK workers from even applying for work on construction projects.

"No European worker should be barred from applying for a British job and absolutely no British worker should be barred from applying for a British job."