Hundreds of workers at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire face a deadline tomorrow to reapply for the jobs from which they were fired on Friday.
After a seven-day wildcat strike, the French oil firm Total, the owner of the refinery, sacked 647 workers who are building the new facilities in north Lincolnshire. An announcement of 51 job cuts to the existing force, coupled with the news that a contractor on the site was hiring new workers, triggered the walkout on 12 June.
The workers sacked on Friday were notified by letter that they have until 5pm tomorrow to apply for their former positions.
More than a dozen sympathy strikes involving hundreds more workers have now spread across the UK, with staff at power stations and worksites downing tools in support, while text messages demand action: "Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Your support is needed more than ever. If you are supporting our brothers across the country, thank you. If you're not yet out, just remember next time it could be you. We must fight this now."
Attempts by the GMB and Unite unions to arrange talks with Total officials, together with a representative from Acas, the government mediation organisation, failed on Friday.
The firm issued a statement, which read: "These negotiations cannot take place while faced with an illegal dispute. We have had contact with Acas today and hope to be able to talk with them further next week once our contractor workforce has had the opportunity to decide if they wish to continue on this important project."
GMB and Unite said yesterday that they remain willing to begin talks with Total on behalf of their membership.
A GMB spokesman Paul Kenny added: "GMB is not walking away from the outrageous and disgraceful behaviour of Total in this matter."
A Unite official was told Total would consider opening negotiations tomorrow.
Total said that production at the refinery has not been affected. The striking workers are building a new plant adjacent to the current refinery.