Oil refinery strikes

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madashell
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Jan 29 2009 14:53
Oil refinery strikes

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/humber/7857996.stm

Quote:
Hundreds of energy industry contractors have walked out at sites in northern England and Scotland in an escalating protest over the use of foreign labour.

The dispute began at the Lindsey Oil Refinery, North Lincolnshire, on Wednesday after a construction contract was awarded to an Italian firm.

Unions said the contract should have been given to British workers.

For fucks sake, could the unions get any more shit?

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 29 2009 15:01

just following Labour party policy...

radicalgraffiti
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Jan 29 2009 16:13

Saw the same thing on the news earlier, couldn't think of any thing to say so i didn't post it

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/7856444.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/7858851.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/7858827.stm

The Union represetive on the employers hiring foreign workers "I don't understand why they are pitting worker agains worker" yes why would they want to do that? wall

ernie
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Jan 30 2009 01:49

Yes, a very good example of the unions dividing the workers and defending the national interest. However, what is going on behind the union actions, why have they felt the need to do this? They understand and fear the growing anger at job losses and the potential for this to explode into very important struggles. This potential can be seen in the way that hundreds of Amarco workers -in a neighbouring plant- walked out and joined them. This was reported on the BBC24 on the 01.00 news, this item also talked about other workers joining the protest. They interviewed what I think was an Amarco worker who said he had joined the protest because it was good that we all stand together and about time to. Thus, behind the nationalist shit is something that must be really worrying the unions and ruling class: the desire for workers to struggle together. This could become something more than the unions wanted, on the other hand it could become a stick to beat the whole class with it workers allow the unions nationalist poison to go answered.
We should also be wary about taking what the media say as gospel. In Plymouth last year when there was a strike amongst building workers at a power station the media and union talked the strike being about foreign workers. Whereas, this so-called foreign workers (from Poland in this case) actually joined the strike saying they did not want to take anyones jobs.
It was noticable that the number of banner at Inimmgham expressing nationalist slogans was limited. It would be very interesting to find out what is really happening there
There is going to be a lot to learn from this strike, because it is the biggest example of other workers joining a strike in a long time. It shows very real danger of the unions using nationalist ideology to cover the dirty work with, but at the same time it has demonstrated that workers willingness to actively expressing solidarity. However, if the unions are able to channel this willingness and discontent into a nationalist dead end it will be a blow against the class and one that the ruling class will spread wall to wall through the media. Though in the long-term it will give workers much to think and discuss about.

akai
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Jan 30 2009 07:04

In the past two years I've come across more and more of this type of stuff. Some unions get past this, but obviously not enough. And amongst the society in general, this can be a complicated issue to deal with. Always have got to point out that the problem is with the capitalists trying to hire cheap, not with the people. Although some working people who want to complain about the former, wind up inadvertantly complaining about the latter.

Another problem is with the labour movement and foreign capitalists - at least I've seen this here. Not that I'm defending capitalists, but some people have, when complaining about working conditions, somehow connected this to the nationality of the boss or the origin of the capital. This could imply, quite falsely, that working for a "local" scumbag is greater than working for a foreign scumbag, or can be seen as simply prejudiced.

Although obviously the problems of workers turning against other workers is much greater, I don't like it if one of the arguments against a boss is his nationality or race. The last incident of this kind was unfortunately with "anarchists" writing about Korean bosses. Some years ago, in a rather sad case, some activist was complaining about the foreign owners of the place he worked and was lobbying for it to be bought by local capitalists. It was, and one of the first things they did was fire the unionist.

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Rob Ray
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Jan 30 2009 09:43

One problem here is that Total are swearing blind that they are paying the foreign workers the same as they would have paid Scottish ones, and it's about skill sets. Not sure about the realities of that but if it's true, nor sure what to make of it.

Mike Harman
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Jan 30 2009 10:34

More strikes in Grangemouth, Teeside, South Wales also walked out "several hundred workers" according to the BBC. Seems like all the nationalist stuff is coming from the Unite representative (assuming it was the same guy quoted above who was interviewed on BBC news 24) - so there may well be a lot more things going on.

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Jan 30 2009 10:35

Rob, the Italian company would have to factor in the cost of transporting and housing the workers in the UK, it's hard to imagine that this would mean they made too much in the way of profits (unless they paid their workers less, of course).

It's hard to comment on the 'skills' issue, what's noticeable is that they've brought in Italian workers, not eastern european (or from even further away..). However, what skills could the Italian workers have that the local workers (many of whom are working there already or have done so in some capacity, eg temping) don't isn't clear. Personally, it sounds like a poor excuse to me.

Quote:
In the past two years I've come across more and more of this type of stuff

And it's going to increase more and more, even as the bourgeiosie squabble amongst themselves about not becoming 'too protectionist', the dynamic is tending to push them that way.

Quote:
Some unions get past this, but obviously not enough

Not sure what you mean here - there's a union which can go beyond the 'defence' of "their members" and, ultimately, the "national interest"?

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 30 2009 10:49
miles wrote:
Quote:
Some unions get past this, but obviously not enough

Not sure what you mean here - there's a union which can go beyond the 'defence' of "their members" and, ultimately, the "national interest"?

i read it as him saying some unions get past appeals to defend 'british jobs' from pesky foreigners. i'd guess stuff like the RMT's living wage campaign for (mostly migrant) tube cleaners and the like would fall into that category.

BB
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Jan 30 2009 11:38

Same old problem it would be useful to have an ear on the ground, nice to see the Union are banging the nationalist drum encouraging and playing on the air of fear permeating through the working class atm, to achieve it's own ends ie. defending it's membership along nationalist lines. On the other hand it has to mean there is real discontent at these plants, well organised or maybe it's the union whipping up a frenzy grin (i don't write for the mail btw). Unless all these workers want a blackshirt...

Mike Harman
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Jan 30 2009 11:42

Yeah there's a difference between a general tendency towards 'national interest' and protectionism compared to what Unite's doing here.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 30 2009 11:58
weeler wrote:
It doesn't make sense to ship in loads of italian workers when there is plenty of local labour, why would bosses do this unless the foreign labour is cheaper?

there's an outside chance they are specialist contractors who can do something locals can't (and are therefore cheaper because they don't need to subcontract in specialists). probably company spin though.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 30 2009 12:12
weeler wrote:
I would doubt it, especially considering it was put to tender, so whoever can do it cheapest gets the contract really.

well that's what i just said, if you have certain skillsets in-house you don't have to shell out for expensive specialist subcontractors so you can win a tender process by undercutting those that don't. but still probably company spin.

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Demogorgon303
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Jan 30 2009 12:51

This is now the lead article on the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent websites. Clearly this is the right kind of strike for the bourgeoisie.

ernie
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Jan 30 2009 13:21

The bourgeoisie is certainly giving this strike a lot of coverage. The unions certainly appear to be organising some of the solidarity walk outs
Refinery strikes spread
On the 1 oc BBC news they interviewed workers about the struggle and the underlying concern was the growing levels of unemployment.
What is obvious is that the bosses and the unions were aware that using foreign labour would be an ideal way of dividing up the workers anger.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 30 2009 13:21
Demogorgon303 wrote:
This is now the lead article on the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent websites. Clearly this is the right kind of strike for the bourgeoisie.

cry

on the plus side, i don't see lots of union jacks waving at the demonstrations/pickets

raw
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Jan 30 2009 13:32

It could possibly be that the Italian workers are better skilled or have skills which would need a longer training if it were "British" workers starting in the trade from scratch. Wonder if people would have felt the same if 300 workers from cornwall were given the jobs instead?

Surely it is the insecurity of not having control of who gets a job which is driving this, and the false notion that your own nationality should be enough to secure your position in the pecking order.

It would be good to deconstruct whats happening and which elements are nationalists like (www.bearfacts.co.uk) and Unite opportunists. I think we should call a demo outside Unites offices against their "British Jobs For British Workers" and their attempt to divide workers.

Whos up for it?

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madashell
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Jan 30 2009 13:48
raw wrote:
It would be good to deconstruct whats happening and which elements are nationalists like (www.bearfacts.co.uk) and Unite opportunists. I think we should call a demo outside Unites offices against their "British Jobs For British Workers" and their attempt to divide workers.

Whos up for it?

Entirely the wrong approach to take, IMO. It could well be the case that the nationalist angle is largely spin from the unions and the media, in which case any intervention aimed at attacking the union for tacking a nationalist slogan onto the dispute may be percieved wrongly. On the other hand, it could be that nationalism is very much the main motivation here, in which case we need to be supporting the migrant workers and putting forward the argument that the important thing is equal pay and conditions for all workers.

This is a complicated situation and it's vital that anarchists and other politicos think very carefully before sticking are oar in, if we don't want to drive the workers involved into the arms of the far right.

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Jan 30 2009 14:10

I reckon we should have something on the front page, saying why capitalism creates these kind of conflicts, and why nationalism is of no help to us and of great use to them.

It could well be that the motivating force here is the precariousness of the situation that the workers are being thrown into because of this, nationalism is how it is being rationalised and an opportunist way to propagandise whats going on - getting Gordon Brown to live up to his promises to defend British livelihoods.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 30 2009 14:18

i know a guy who does seasonal work at a refinery, i'll give him a ring. if anyone fancies drafting a news article that'd be great, we can always add to it as we get a clearer picture of what's going on. i think the people urging caution at taking the media's word for it are being wise - there's almost certainly some nationalist content, but obviously the press would hype that up over a spreading strike in reaction to the precariousness of a recession.

ernie
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Jan 30 2009 14:30

Django is right to show that precariousness is behind this. I have just watched an interview with a protester who was clearly deeply angry about the lack of work in the area and that fact that workers did not have jobs with which to feed their families, and the unions are using nationalism to channel this anger.
I also agree that the main thing to be said is that it is capitalism that creates this situation and that nationalism is no answer.
Agree with madashell that this is a very complex situation and any intervention towards this struggle needs to be very carefully thought through. What would we say if we were there. Then main thing would be to say that the cause of job losses is not foreign workers by capitalism, that allowing ourselves to be divided up by nationalism will allow the ruling class to impose more attacks, that we need to defend our jobs by a common struggle against all job losses etc, that workers in Italy and Portugual are also suffering terrible unemployment; one class one struggle.
Do any libcomers live in the area?

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miles
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Jan 30 2009 14:35

Agree with Demo, this is eactly the 'right' kind of workers protest the unions and their bourgeois masters want, it'll be all over the headlines for a couple of days.

Catch wrote:

Quote:
Yeah there's a difference between a general tendency towards 'national interest' and protectionism compared to what Unite's doing here.

What Unite is doing here is entirely within the spirit of the defence of the national interest. They're all quoting the words of Gordon Brown back at him from, if memory serves me, the last Labour national conference. Since then this isn't the first time that particular slogan has appeared. And actually in any other industry where something similar happens you'll see the same slogan again.

Ironically enough, the same Gordon Brown was in the government when the decision was made to allow thousands of eastern europeans to come over and 'take' british jobs... Now the recession is biting home, there's a need to get rid of some excess in the economy - with the double benefit to the bourgeosie that they can rid of the foreign labour without it appearing on the unemployment statistics.

petey
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Jan 30 2009 14:37

i'm all the way over here in the states, so not on the spot, but the guardian writes:

Quote:
A series of unofficial strikes broke out across Britain today over plans by a major oil company to give jobs to construction workers from Portugal and Italy. The contractors were to work on the giant £200m Lindsey oil refinery at North Killingholme, Lincolnshire.

Workers at refineries and power stations in various parts of the UK walked out, some holding placards quoting the words of Gordon Brown: "British jobs for British workers". The wildcat strikes mark the latest in a series of protests over the use of foreign rather than domestic labour by large companies in the UK.

how spontaneous is this?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/30/oil-refinery-dispute

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Jan 30 2009 15:34

I've banged something quick together - maybe others could have a go over it.

Quote:
The wave of unofficial walkouts following the use of the Italian construction contractor, IREM, with its own workforce at Total's Lindsey oil refinery have received a great deal of media coverage.

The motive force seems to be the precarious status of skilled work in Britain. The limited amount available and increased competition for skilled contracts has led to increasing precariousness amongst the workforce. The use of foreign companies with their own workforces to do the work more cheaply has compounded this. This is a result of the dynamics of capitalism, not a conflict between nationalities, something that isn’t lost on at least some of those protesting. The Guardian quoted a picket from the protest in Cardiff, John Cummins, 44, as saying: "I was laid off as a stevedore two weeks ago. I've worked in Cardiff and Barry Docks for 11 years and I've come here today hoping that we can shake the government up. I think the whole country should go on strike as we're losing all British industry. But I've got nothing against foreign workers. I can't blame them for going where the work is."

It seems that the increasing precarity of the situation for skilled workers is behind the protest, not racism. We should be wary of the way in which the media reports such disputes. When workers at a nuclear power station in Plymouth walked out on a wildcat strike last year after a round of layoffs, the media immediately reported that they were walking out over “foreign workers”, and that it was a protest against jobs going to cheaper Poles. This contradicted statements from strikers, and the fact that Polish workers were amongst those who walked out in solidarity. In that case it was again the unions which were spinning the “British jobs for British workers” line. The media will always go for the nationalist reasoning.

The strategy that Unite are following is to quote Gordon Brown’s words from the 2007 Labour Party Conference back at him – that he would defend “British jobs for British workers”. They are arguing in defence of the national interest, and the placards you see at the protests saying this are union ones. Its clearly part of the strategy for publicising the dispute, an effective one as it chimes with the nationalist sentiments you’ll find in the media. It’s one we are likely to see more of in similar kinds of disputes.

Clearly what is being demonstrated is capitalism’s inability to meet our needs, not a conflict between national groups. Capitalism is proving unable to provide the work we need to get by on to increasing numbers of skilled workers, and the individual workers are faced with increasing precariousness. The managers at Lindsay put out the project to tender and took the most cost effective option as a way to protect their profits. This is what they care about, not providing means of subsistence to working class people. But nationalism is how this is being rationalised, nationalism of a vaguely left-wing sort – the working class should have work provided for them by the government, they have an obligation to protect us, etc, etc. This is added to the xenophobia of the media, who otherwise ignore or criticise any strike action.

Nationalism has nothing to offer us - our interests and those of the state and capital in this country have nothing in common. Capitalism is the problem, not ‘foreigners’. The Italian and Portuguese workers at the site face terrible unemployment at home, as we face it here. Capitalism cannot meet our needs, and our interests are in demanding that our needs (work, more pay, etc) are met.

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Jan 30 2009 16:17

i've subbed that slightly (to tone down the comment and emotive language - that would make for a good leaflet - in accordance with our style guide) and posted it to news here.

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Jan 30 2009 17:00
Joseph K. wrote:
i've subbed that slightly (to tone down the comment and emotive language - that would make for a good leaflet - in accordance with our style guide) and posted it to news here.
Quote:
It looks like you've tried to access a page that's only accessible to logged in users or admins.

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why can I edit this? Just wondering. ho ho ho hee hee hee they're coming to take me away ha ha - this is still editable by anyone - 888

testicles testicles

Looks like fairly heavy editing for subbing wink

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Jan 30 2009 17:02

Django, will you be submitting that article to the AF blog? It seems like it belongs there.

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oisleep
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Jan 30 2009 17:10
Quote:
British jobs for British workers.... the placards you see at the protests saying this are union ones.

i asked on the news item itself which seems to have disappeared - is this a factual statement?

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Jan 30 2009 17:30
Demogorgon303 wrote:
Clearly this is the right kind of strike for the bourgeoisie.

what, wildcat strikes, unoffical actions, spontanous action not endorsed or condoned by the union buracracy? this is the kind of stuff folk on here fantasise about all the time

someone already made the comment that it's interesting that it's 'british' workers (who are refused work because of their nationality) getting labelled racist (by so called lefties/anarchists) for standing up to a company who will only employ italian/portugese labour

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Jan 30 2009 17:33

You can see the signs the union produced on the video here:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/4/20090130/tuk-hundreds-more-refinery-workers-walk-dba1618.html

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Jan 30 2009 17:43
Joseph K. wrote:
i've subbed that slightly (to tone down the comment and emotive language - that would make for a good leaflet - in accordance with our style guide) and posted it to news here.

Yeah I was hoping it would get picked over by others before going up properly, I'm pretty ill today.