Unofficial strike escalates at refinery

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The Independent Online

An unofficial strike at an oil refinery hit by wildcat action earlier this year escalated today when 1,200 workers took part in the action.

The walkout at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire was in protest at a sub-contractor announcing 51 job losses, while another employer on the site was hiring workers.

There were rumours that some scaffolders who joined the stoppage were sacked, heightening fears that the action could spread to other sites in the coming days if the row is not resolved.

Total, which owns the refinery, said that about 1,200 contractors were not working today, with half gathered outside the project entrances while talks continued between union officials and management.

The firm said in a statement: "The refinery continues to operate normally and is not affected by this action. We are extremely disappointed the contractors have decided to walk out, and want them to return to work and end this illegal action immediately. We are in urgent discussions with contract companies and local union officials to resolve the situation.

"We would like to make it very clear that there has never been any discrimination against any worker at the Lindsey oil refinery. This redundancy process is normal on any contract as and when different phases of the project are completed.

"Total has invested over £200 million in the new expansion project, which will help to secure the future of the refinery and local employment for many years to come."

The strike hit work on a new unit at the site, which was at the centre of a bitter row earlier this year over the recruitment of non-UK workers.

The latest dispute is not connected to that row, although thousands of construction workers are being balloted across the UK over employment at major sites.

A spokesman for the GMB said the union was supporting efforts by the conciliation service Acas to hold talks to try to resolve the latest dispute.

General secretary Paul Kenny has said there seemed to be a dispute about compulsory redundancies on the site while other workers were being recruited into similar type jobs.

"There are concerns that these workers may be being victimised for earlier industrial action and that these redundancies are in breach of the agreement that brought industrial peace to the site some months ago," he said.