Thousands strike as refinery jobs dispute escalates

A dispute over jobs at an oil refinery escalated today when thousands of workers took wildcat strike action and sacked construction employees burned their dismissal notices in an act of defiance against French oil giant Total.





Demonstrators outside the Lindsey oil refinery in North Lincolnshire set light to letters in a car park opposite the huge plant in protest at being given until 5pm today to reapply for their jobs.



Almost 650 contract staff working on a major construction project at the refinery were sacked last week by firms working for Total, which runs the refinery, after a week of unofficial industrial action.



A senior executive at Total tonight revealed the project to build a new desulpherisation plant at Lindsey was £100 million over budget and late being completed because of productivity problems and the unofficial strikes.



Michel Benezit, President of Refining and Marketing, told the Press Association the dispute was out of Total's hands because it involved sub-contractors.



"The work should have been finished by now and the unit should be in operation. Because of poor productivity and disputes, we still have a long way to go.



"I want to make it clear that we have not fired anyone because we have no employees involved in this work. There is not much we can do. My only goal is to see an end to the strike as soon as possible. We have already suffered huge cost over-runs."



Sources estimated up to 4,000 contract workers at power stations and oil and gas terminals across the UK took part in unofficial action today as the wildcat strikes spread.



The biggest walkout was at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria where 900 contract staff held a meeting and decided to stay out until Wednesday.



Sellafield said the action did not involve its own employees, stressing the site remained open and operational.



Around 400 workers at two gas plants in west Wales joined the strike, as did 200 contractors at Drax and Eggborough power stations near Selby, North Yorkshire.



Workers at Fiddlers Ferry power station in Widnes, Cheshire, Shell's Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, and Didcot power station in Oxfordshire also took unofficial strike action.



The GMB union is organising a huge protest outside the Lindsey terminal early tomorrow, with general secretary Paul Kenny among the speakers.



The union tonight accused management of provoking the dispute, which was sparked when 51 workers were laid off at the same time as another contractor on the site was hiring staff.



The GMB claimed that a senior manager said he was not prepared to recommend that the laid off workers should be taken on because they were "unruly" and had taken part in unofficial disputes as well as refusing to work weekends.



Phil Davies, national officer of the GMB, said: "Every stone you uncover on this job you find another management lie. It is clear that there never was any intention to redeploy these workers despite the company agreeing to do this just a few short weeks ago.



"It is little wonder that the workforce castigate the company as being dishonest. This is a clear case of victimisation on a par with the notorious industry blacklists."



Unite's national officer, Tom Hardacre said: "The outrageous sacking of workers at Lindsey is one of the most aggressive acts I've witnessed as a trade union official. Even some of the employers at Lindsey did not want to issue the letters to the workers but were forced to do so.



"Last week we were attempting to broker a deal to get a resolution to the unofficial dispute but Total have allowed the dispute to escalate without any strategy to resolve the problems.



"Unite is available to join the employers at the table to develop a sensible resolution and we call upon the employers for a positive response."



Protesters queued to throw their dismissal letters into a blazing dustbin outside Lindsey this morning to cheers from a crowd of around 300 colleagues.



Phil Whitehurst, of the GMB union, told the crowd: "Let them show us how many want to go back in there crawling on their bellies for their jobs. We go out together, we go back together."



Total said today that, given the number of sub-contractors on the site, the number of workers reapplying for their jobs would not be known until the end of the week.



The company said: "Total has been encouraged by the initial feedback our contract companies have received from their former workforces."



The company said it was hopeful that work on a construction project which has been halted because of the dispute will be able to restart in the next few weeks.



"Total wishes to stress that at no stage has it asked its contract companies to reduce their workforce's pay and conditions in any way and will not seek to do so.



"Total calls for all parties to respect employment law and to work together within the nationally negotiated agreements to which they are signatories."



Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "It continues to be our view that the parties do need to talk - ideally through Acas."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel: