Oil refinery strikes

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alibi
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Feb 5 2009 00:55
revol68 wrote:
Yes this is exactly the case, but there is simply no turning the clock back now, certainly not without falling into the pitfall of pitting workers against workers. The only answer is for Europe wide struggle and demands, calls for protectionism are reactionary in the true sense of the word.

eh? it is workers against workers right now.

thats exactly what has happened.

alibi
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Feb 5 2009 01:20

worker has been pitted against worker by these EU laws, exactly as predicted and campaigned against by the trade unions for a decade. you have hundreds who have been undercut and shafted by this situation, they're quite rightly pissed off and the collective bargaining agreements have been shafted.

you're saying that until they prove their revolutionary purity "we can't look to go anywhere" with this even though they are the victims of what had been established as an anti-worker practice?

the horse had bolted the moment that contract was offered.

to walk away in fear of the direction resentment would take would have been a laughable position.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 5 2009 07:53
revol68 wrote:
appeals to national protectionism

~

Demands of the Lindsey Oil Refinery wrote:
All workers in UK to be covered by NAECI Agreement (...) Union controlled registering of unemployed and locally skilled union members, with nominating rights as work becomes available (...) All Immigrant labour to be unionised (...) Trade Union assistance for immigrant workers - including interpreters - and access to Trade Union advice - to promote active integrated Trade Union Members (...) Build links with construction trade unions on the continent.

eh?

revol68 wrote:
I'm well aware of what contracting involves, however this has been something that has gone on for decades in the industry. When a contract is won by a company they decide who and where they hire, that's just a fact (...)Well i assumed they are contractors much like in the IT industry, so job insecurity is taken for granted.

talk about reactionary arguments; 'it's just the way things are, get used to it son, no point striking.'

revol68 wrote:
This is why I find it hard to grasp what the actual demands.

read them maybe?

revol68 wrote:
I was under the assumption that contracts changing hands was common place and the only change is the economic downturn was what was giving this one significance rather than anything about the contract, ie, it wasn't seen as a problem when work was plentiful but now it is drying up it's become an issue.

so because causalisation was easier to impose during a boom, workers should just accept it as the way it is during a recession? no-one's denying there's nationalist content to the strikes, but (a) at root they're protests at precarious employment going into a recession and (b) the strikers have been arguing it out and concsiously moved away from nationalism and towards internationlism. to collapse all this into 'parochial strikes for national protectionism' makes the SWP's take look nuanced - seriously have you even read much of what's going on, followed bearfacts etc or have you had your usual cursory glance over a news article/wikipedia and waded in all expert? i mean quote-mining union officials (unsourced - links would be good so people can see who said what when) doesn't establish much, i'd much sooner take the demands of the LOR strike committee endorsed by a mass meeting as representing what the strikers want and not the words of a union official, who have from the start 'appealed to Gordon Brown to live up to his words' and all that shite (they are the industrial wing of the Labour Party after all).

posi
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Feb 5 2009 10:32
Quote:
This is also why I want to find out the truth value of the claim that the italian company won the contract because it used a permanent workforce rather than a subcontracted one.

I'd like to know the answer to that too... can you remember where you read it?

Anyway, apart from that - do you think strikes against offshoring are ever legitimate? i.e. if a factory was going to be closed down, and the jobs taken up in India (or even in another part of the country), and the workers went on strike, wouldn't you support them?

This case would be no different in terms of internationalist principle than the one we're looking at now. It's commonplace to support such struggles - against offshoring - but perhaps you think that's wrong?

edit: and can someone confirm why it's all been Unite and some GMB that've been prominent? What about UCATT? Is it that these construction workers are some sort of energy/oil construction specialists, so they count as engineers or something?

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 5 2009 10:47

LOR back to work, with 102 jobs allocated to locals and none lost by Italians: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7871657.stm

Out of interest, were any of the demands JK lists actually met?

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Rob Ray
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Feb 5 2009 11:48

I don't think anyone was arguing that to start with the strike was muddled revol, or that the workforce was being led astray solely by union chiefs - there's a difference between exploiting a latent tendency to nationalism to try and direct the course of events, which they certainly did, and spinning nationalism out of nothing, which they clearly didn't.

What's been interesting about this is how quickly it went from having a basically reactionary demand (not out of keeping with how the London or Liverpool dockers started, and probably with a significantly better starting point) to having a much more thought-through and progressive one during the course of the strike, which included the rejection of BNP intervention and explicit anti-racism.

Mark.
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Feb 5 2009 12:27
revol68 wrote:
As for the demands well how do they relate back to the initial strike. Are the Italian workers undercutting terms and conditions? What is the truth in claim that one of the main reasons the Italians won the contract because they had a permanent workforce whilst the British companies bidding used subcontractors?

According to a report in the Portuguese press - 'The English unions claim that the companies prefer to contract foreigners because they get lower salaries. However the Portuguese workers, specialists in metalwork, were earning up to 3,700 euros a month. "I was earning more than many of the English workers", one of them assured Correio da Manhã.'

This may be anecdotal evidence but I suspect that the Italian and Portuguese workers weren't really undercutting wages at Lindsey. Of course this doesn't necessarily mean that foreign contractors aren't undercutting wages at other sites that have come out in support.

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Feb 5 2009 12:31
revol68 wrote:
Yes I see these demands, I just don't see how they relate to the initial strike which was in protest of the use of italian labour over local.

according to the media, union officials and peter mandleson; the only sources we have to go on. i think the demands of the strike committee approved by a mass meeting are probably more indicative of the views of strikers.

revol68 wrote:
Like I said the strike seems very muddled

nobody's claiming there isn't a mixture of nationalist and class sentiments, you're tilting at windmills.

revol68 wrote:
I also feel Joseph K and Steven. are abit too wishful in their desire to paint the british jobs for british workers thing being foisted upon the workers by the nasty union.

seriously, have you actually read the thread? here's some choice bits:

Joseph K. wrote:
i think opposing the strikes per se instead of the union/PMs 'British jobs...' line is a mistake, since it dismisses the reality of class concerns (recession, precarious employment...) that are mixed up in the nationalist articulations being emphasised by the unions and the media (and held by many workers, no doubt)

link

Joseph K. wrote:
the jingoist sentiments clearly came from sections of the strikers themselves too.

link

Joseph K. wrote:
in the first few days you had a string of union officials quoted in the press calling on gordon brown to live up to his words etc, and many placards emblazoned with union logos pushing the slogan. i don't doubt this reflected a tendency present among the strikers, but notably it was this tendency that was pushed, not the tendencies to unofficial action, sympathy action, internationalism etc (...) who thinks there's some pure unsullied proletariat being led astray? not even the ICC as far as i can tell

link

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Rob Ray
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Feb 5 2009 12:31

There's been a few bits on here which both undermine that view (eg. they were being charged room and board, travel etc, all of which the company will have profited from), tbh you'd need to work out the potential take-home pay of each. Also, it was pointed out that the form of employment, and the anti-union aims of the contractor, may also be factors.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 5 2009 13:10
revol68 wrote:
Like I said those demands don't seem to match with the Total dispute or atleast seem rather irrelevant to it.

revol, they are the demands of the strike committee in dispute with Total at LOR. what are you talking about?

revol68 wrote:
Again are you going to provide any evidence that the italian workers are undercutting

why should i provide evidence for a claim i've never made? again, what are you talking about?

revol68 wrote:
are you willing to enter into a discussion as to how the subcontracted nature of skilled british construction jobs means it could be argued that it is undercutting the terms and conditions of permanent employees?

casualisation is used to undermine permanent employees. it's not obviously relevant though, unless you're claiming the LOR strike is a strike for the right to undercut foreign workers...

posi
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Feb 5 2009 13:39
Joseph K. wrote:
revol68 wrote:
Like I said those demands don't seem to match with the Total dispute or atleast seem rather irrelevant to it.

revol, they are the demands of the strike committee in dispute with Total at LOR. what are you talking about?

I think revol's point might be that while those are a list of things the strikers think would be good, they were not the demands of the strike, in that they were not the conditions under which workers would return. Those conditions - whether the predominant slogans were nationalist or internationalist, whether at the beginning or the end of the walkouts - were always to get a substantial proportion, at least 50%, of the jobs available to apply for on site.

But I think if it would be OK to support a strike of workers stopping their jobs from going to Italy, regardless of the level of relative wages, then it is OK to support their jobs going to people who have applied in Italy, then being shipped over here. Where work happens isn't what matters.

edit:

Quote:
Union controlled registering of unemployed and locally skilled union members, with nominating rights as work becomes available.

I took this to mean a system like on the docks in the US.

baboon
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Feb 5 2009 14:06

According to a Portugese worker interveiwed on News at Ten, ITV last night, the workers contracted and brought over by Irem were earning around a thousand Euros a month less than the going rate. Presumably the unions were aware of this in the negotiations with Irem as they were aware that these workers would use segregated canteens and be housed on a segregated ex-prison ship. As the strike developed this segregation was further enforced by the police, the bosses and the unions. There were some attempts by workers to get these workers to join the strike and had they done so would have dealt a blow to the nationalist campaign of the bourgeoisie by dint of a basic solidarity. This was a fight, for all the problems and baggage that it raised, against the effects of the crisis and the attacks of the bourgeoisie.
Another positive element to this movement was the avoidence of pointless set piece battles with the police though there were angry confrontations. And don't forget, every one of these strikes were illegal and there was no attempt to enforce the law.
Many Irish workers would have been among the contractors and no doubt on the picket lines.
I think the swift conclusion to this episode in the class struggle shows the maturity of the working class in not being drawn into a long strike like that of the miners in 84.

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Feb 5 2009 14:53
Quote:
Again are you going to provide any evidence that the italian workers are undercutting and are you willing to enter into a discussion as to how the subcontracted nature of skilled british construction jobs means it could be argued that it is undercutting the terms and conditions of permanent employees?

I would have thought it was fairly obvious that the italian workforce are being paid less, since the company is taking a big whack out of their salary for food, transport and accomodation and IREM are taking great care to make sure they are segregated from british workers thus not allowing both workforces to mingle.
The italian workforce is un-unionised, has less in terms of paid breaks and all in all it would be somewhat bizarre if they were beig paid more.
If you genuinely beleive they're being paid the same amount, the why do you think the terms and conditions are still kept ''confidential''?

Edit: And as baboon points out, the cats pretty much out oif the bag this is obviously about cheap labour undercutting collective bargaining agreements

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Choccy
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Feb 5 2009 15:21

I haven't seen a single substantive claim about undercutting. And I know JoeK listed the demands as they now stand, which, while they may be valid, you only have to go back one week on these threads alone to see they don't map onto what was being discussed initially. Following this since the start, it seems the initial issue was about british workers being excluded outright by the contract being awarded to the italian company.

To be fair, Revol's not saying there's nothing worth doing with regards the strike. It's positive that there's been a move away from the initial knee-kerk 'british jobs for british workers' rhetoric, and it would still be worthwhile distributing criticism of the bosses, carving up workers, and pitting them against each other etc.

Without knowing too much about it, it's hard to come away anything other than confused as to what would be a satisfactory resolution to those on the picket lines - to me it's not clear that anything on that list of demands maps onto what protestors (however selective the media portrayal has been, and I'm not convinced that's there has been quite the spin some have suggested) are fighting for.

It's clear that the nature of contracting and subcontracting does serve to carve up sections of workers, but it's not clear that demanding 'fair access' based on locality is a way to undermine the negative effects of such working arrangements.

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Feb 5 2009 19:19
revol68 wrote:
I'm also puzzled as to how Joseph K and others could be so supportive of the initial strike without know whether their is undercutting going on or not.

if by 'so supportive' you mean my intial posts on the matter, back on page 1:

Joseph K. wrote:
just following Labour party policy...

and

Joseph K. wrote:

cry

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

moving on to

revol68 wrote:
If undercutting is not happening then you are left with a reactionary articulation of local workers frustration at their dire economic situation, if they are being undercut then there is something to work with regardless of the nationalistic rhetoric spouted by many.

as i said on page 5 one of the demands was proof that the foreign workers were on the same T&Cs, so it looks like the suspicion they were being undercut was a motive force.

revol68 wrote:
Saying that in both cases the argument for so many percentage of employment to be allocated to local british workers is reactionary, as it gets the problem arse about face.

yes, of course. as i said on page 5:

Joseph K. wrote:
interesting the deal is to offer a set number of nationality-specific jobs for a set period of time, and not the Lindsey demand for "Union controlled registering of unemployed and locally skilled union members, with nominating rights as work becomes available. (...) All Immigrant labour to be unionised (...) Trade Union assistance for immigrant workers - including interpreters - and access to Trade Union advice - to promote active integrated Trade Union Members."

which is by no means beyond criticism, but clearly rejects nationality as a way of allocating jobs.

seriously, you tilt at any more windmills you'll fall over.

Choccy wrote:
I know JoeK listed the demands as they now stand, which, while they may be valid, you only have to go back one week on these threads alone to see they don't map onto what was being discussed initially.

but was any of that earlier stuff coming from the strike committee or the mass meetings? or was it soundbites from union officials in the press? if not the former, it's hardly a reliable guide to the demands of the strike. in any case, i'm willing to accept it started out nationalist (i certainly thought it was, hence my "cry"), the positive thing is it's moved away from that after conscious discussions amongst the strikers. revol's attacking a straw men saying i (or anyone) was "so supportive of the initial strike" or that anyone has offered "uncritical support of the wrong headed demands of one section of the working class over another."

posi
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Feb 5 2009 20:57
revol wrote:
yes but no one was laid off to make way for the italian workers, their bosses simply didn't win the contracts, they weren't ever on the contract to start.

No, this is wrong.

Quote:
A ninety day redundancy notice had been issued around mid November 2008 at Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) for Shaws' workforce.

This meant that by February 17th 2009 a number of Shaws' construction workers (LOR) would be made redundant.

The day before the Christmas holiday Shaws' shop-stewards reported to the men that a part of the contract on LOR's HDS3 plant had been awarded to IREM, an Italian company.

The Stewards explained that Shaws had lost a third of the job to IREM who would be employing their own core Portuguese and Italian workforce numbering 200-300.

Source: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/latest/6849

So these are not different jobs. There might be a number of layers of contracting going on, but in terms of the work, the work that the Portuguese and Italian workforce would have been doing is the work that the original workforce would have done, had their employer not lost the contract to another employer, who would not make jobs available for the original workers.

These were redundancies. The workers had a right to fight them.

baboon
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Feb 5 2009 21:03

Without at all underestimating the dangers of nationalism, a nationalism that ground down the miners' strike in 84, then right from the off in this movement, there have been enough expressions of solidarity with "foreign" workers to make it so much more than all the bourgeoisie's propaganda, ie, a strike "against foreign workers". Fundamentally this is a movement against the crisis and the attacks of the bourgeoisie. A confused and complex movement without a doubt but a fundamental expression of the class: wildcat strikes, extension, mass meetings, solidarity. If you are waiting for perfect, pure struggle you will wait until the sun burns out.
I don't understand Revol's position. He seems to be saying that all workers should respect European law, ie, the "free movement of workers" that Mandleson goes on about. He proposes a European strike. Against whom - North America or the Asean bloc? Why just a European strike?
Total and Irem haven't brought these workers to Britain to wine and dine them and give them a good time at their expense. They have done so because this labour is cheaper for them. It doesn't really take a lot of working out even if the situation is complex with the various dodges, union manoeuvres and state inspired campaigns as well as the confusions in many of the worker's heads.

There's a good article today in the Guardian by Seumas Milne (would someone be kind enough to make a link to it please - I'm still sussing this out). He points out, amongst other things, how the BBC news edited a quote from a worker on the picket line to make him look like a racist, when the full quote showed the opposite (mentioned by Ernie above).
The BBC, the voice of the British bourgeoisie (as are all the channels) did this before during the miners' strike - at Grimethorpe from memory - when they showed masses of pickets attacking police and then an equally big police charge with horses and batons. They just showed it (and showed it, and showed it) the wrong way round.
They apologised for it a couple of years ago.

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Feb 5 2009 21:17
baboon wrote:
There's a good article today in the Guardian by Seumas Milne (would someone be kind enough to make a link to it please)

The target of this campaign of strikes is now obvious

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Feb 6 2009 01:36

Incase you haven't heard yet... http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/02/200925114540454879.html

Mike Harman
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Feb 6 2009 10:54

So far there's no sign that strikes at the other plants (like Alstom) have finished though. Or is there?

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Steven.
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Feb 6 2009 12:52

I'm finding revol's position here pretty shocking.

It looks like you have come on here having read a couple of newspaper articles, not really understanding anything about the strike and just denouncing it.

I would have hoped that it would be clear to you that there are other issues going on here - hence it being supported by so many people on here that you would usually agree with. Unfortunately, you clearly didn't do any reading into this before coming on here and starting arguing (your confusion is obvious, not understanding the demands, not realising that the LOR strike was at Total etc).

Being aware of how you discuss things on here I know that you will never admit to being wrong, so I'm sure that you will continue to argue your initial line which was based on your ignorance of the facts. So I'm quite wary about responding to you, but I will do for the sake of other readers.

Quote:
Yes Steven. I'm well aware of what contracting involves, however this has been something that has gone on for decades in the industry. When a contract is won by a company they decide who and where they hire, that's just a fact, it's why Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were filled with skilled British workers.

this argument is unbelievable - this is what happens in areas where workers are weak and poorly organised. This is a bad thing for workers as it means there is no job security.

Saying this is the way things are is not an argument - the point is to try and change a bad situation.

Where workers are better organised, for example in parts of the public sector as I outlined, when contractors change workers can force the new contractors to take on the existing staff on their existing terms and conditions.

This is what is best for all workers - having stable employment with protected terms and conditions.

Quote:
Now if the Italian's are not on worse terms and conditions than local workers would be then I don't see the argument?

firstly, if you believe they are not on worse terms and conditions, when wages in Italy are so much lower than here, then maybe you're more naive than I thought.

Secondly, regardless of their conditions, the argument is that it is not in workers interests for employers to be able to sack people at will and just replace them with whoever they want. It is in workers interests to have stable employment.

Quote:
And there are demands that local workers are entitled to equal access to the work, but like I said the facts are that contractors are under no such obligation to hire local workers, anymore than Shorts has to employ workers from east Belfast, under the common market there simply is no difference between italians and english, anymore than there is between Mancs and Cockneys.

like I said in my post above, in a point you completely ignored, the nationality of the workers is irrelevant. The fact is that sacking one group of workers in order to replace them with a different group. The first group should try to defend their jobs. It is also in the interests of the second group ultimately that the others can defend their jobs - because workers defending their job security and winning the right not to be sacked at will benefits all workers. This also addresses your point here:

Quote:
And yes thanks for the preaching about workers solidarity, but as far as I can see that's just bluster in this case as there is no reason why Italian workers would line up with a strike that would see at least some of them replaced by 'locals', especially as there is no evidence that they are on worse terms and conditions. It's naive to think that these workers would join such a strike even if it hadn't been articulated in such a nationalist manner and simply daft to imagine it will happen considering that it has.

again, like I've now said many times, workers can and often have been won over to support the demands of a strike which won't initially benefit them. This is indeed the foundation of workers solidarity. That you are unable to understand this I find quite confusing.

Apart from the fact I ready pointed out that the company said the Italians are all permanent workers and so none would actually lose their jobs (something you didn't seem to realise until later on, and something you again ignored from my post), some of them will sympathise and will not want to be used to replace an existing workforce. Apart from the ethical implications, some will realise that this has repercussions for their own job security if they win the right to not be replaced at the whim of the employer.

Workers solidarity is predominantly based on workers putting their mutual, long-term interest above shortsighted selfishness. This is something which, thankfully, millions of workers do realise, even if you do not.

This site is filled with hundreds of such examples, and some of the mentioned on this thread, for example the Polish workers who joined the strike of British workers protesting against being replaced by the cheaper Poles.

Quote:
My internationalism and solidarity doesn't extend to uncritical support of the wrong headed demands of one section of the working class over another, especially when it seems to rest upon parochialism and latent nationalism.

that is some impressive pomposity. Thankfully thousands of other workers saw in this a fight for job security and lost out on pay themselves to show their support. Of course this took on some nationalist overtones - but I think this is unsurprising, especially given the massive media attention shown because of the nationalist element, and the constant media demonisation of foreigners, and migrant workers in particular.

But you have to put the substance before the superficial appearance before making a decision, which clearly you haven't done.

Quote:
I really don't see what's to be gained by kidding ourselves about the content of these strikes and downplayying the nationalism within them, ffs the union speakers where surrounded by rather large union jacks.

who has been playing it down? You're accusing people of not knowing about the content of the strikes, when you hadn't even read any of the demands, and weren't aware of who was actually on strike where.

My lunch break is over now so I have to go, but I will come back to this later on

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oisleep
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Feb 6 2009 13:43

thought some of you might find this RMT motion of interest

Quote:
“This RMT branch, (Hammersmith & City, London Underground) sends its support and fraternal greetings to the strikers at the Lindsey plant and especially to those other workers who have taken illegal, unofficial, strike action in support of you, like the hundreds of Polish workers at Langage in the West Country.

Furthermore, we congratulate those stewards and militants who have sought to push the strike in an internationalist direction, and have highlighted that the dispute is about union-busting and the neo-liberal European Union business legislation, and not about bashing ‘foreigners’.

We are union reps and activists drawn from what is arguably Britain’s most multi-racial, multi-ethnic workforce, and as such we would have no truck with a simplistic, nationalist slogan like British Jobs for British Workers. Our strength as Tube workers has been built on unity against the bosses.

However, we can see that, despite the way your dispute has been portrayed in much of the newsmedia, your fight is about a system of subcontracting that means the bosses can import their own, chosen, workforce in their bid to break local union organisation.

It is always, and in every case, right and proper to fight union-busting bosses.

We further congratulate the stewards and strikers who have given the nazi BNP short-shrift and told them to get out of the strike. The BNP attacked the FBU strike in 2002, supported Thatcher’s war on the NUM in 1984/5 and are the enemy of free trade unions.

Lastly, we condemn Lord Mandelson for his attempts to label the strikers xenophobic, which is just a posh word for racist.

The Labour government, and its Tory predecessors have introduced successive legislation which has opened up the markets for the bosses, handed over public assets to the rich, and initiated a ‘race to the bottom’ of cheap labour which all too often the Trade Union leaders have failed to resist.

Solidarity forever. Workers of the World Unite.”

baboon
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Feb 6 2009 16:22

Thanks for the link Armchair.
On my miners' strike reference, it was Orgreave not Grimethorp where the BBC inverted reality.

Revol asks above, (to put it crudely) why should Italian and Portugese workers have come out on strike. The obvious answer is that the solidarity would have been a blow to the nationalist campaign and strengthened the movement further.

But it also poses a wider, more profound question well beyond the intracacies of European law and quotas: why strike at all? My guess is that it was only during a briefish period around the 70s that striking actually brought a positive financial benefit, that is the lost pay for one, several or whatever days on strike (providing it didn't go for too long) could be made up in wage increases, extra holidays, various payments, etc. This time has long past. So why strike? Why not take up the position expressed by Capricorn on another, earlier thread, and, in the face of recession and attacks, duck your nut, batten down the hatches and basically look after number one? The reason is that if the working class refuses to fight, draws in on itself rather than extending its struggle, sinks to its knees, then the bourgeoisie will kick the shit out of it. A period of defeat and counter-revolution will be on the cards. There is nothing pre-ordained about the class struggle.
From memory, over a hundred years ago, leading up to revolutionary wave, there was a tradition in the working class of cheaper "foreign" labour or strikebreakers from abroad, joining the struggles of indiginous workers that they were supposed to be undermining. Not always, but enough to be significant.

Does this mean any old strike should be supported? No. The London dockers' and meatworkers' strikes of the 60s and the Ulster Workers' Council strike of the 70s were nationalist and reactionary. But this present movement, for all the problems and criticisms that one could make of it (and there are plenty of those from my point of view) was a clear expression of the working class standing and fighting for its own interests. The gain and the potential is in the struggle itself and should push us to clarify its needs further.

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Feb 6 2009 17:18
revol68 wrote:
I also feel Joseph K and Steven. are abit too wishful in their desire to paint the british jobs for british workers thing being foisted upon the workers by the nasty union. As much as it pains me to say it but nationalist and protectionist attitudes and ideas are very popular and trying to pretend otherwise is just folly.

like Joseph pointed out above, this is a strawman with no basis in reality. Neither of us have said anything even remotely like this. As he also pointed out, Joseph in fact said the exact opposite of this.

This is a very poor way of arguing, inventing positions for your opponents.

It is true that some of the union officials have been pushing the nationalist line, which of course should be criticised, but again as many others have pointed out these are also ideas which are widespread in society - pushed very strongly by the media.

And as for this:

revol68 wrote:

Now if the Italian workers are not undercutting 'local workers' and they haven't caused any redundancies, then exactly how are british workers being excluded, beyond the fact Total wanted a contractor which DIDN'T use casualised sub-contractors!

that you are taking this obvious bosses propaganda as fact is unbelievable. On what planet would a cost-cutting employer chooses a subcontractor on the basis that its workers have good permanent contracts? (Unless of course they were also cheaper, or more likely to divide up the workforce to break up workers organisation)

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Feb 6 2009 22:38

I think that the evolution of the 'majority' position on this thread has been extremely positive and reflects the real development of class consciousness within the strike movement. I can understand Revol's reaction - other comrades, even those who are usually very enthusisatic about outbreaks of class struggle, have experienced strong feelings of discouragement by the images presented of this movement. In fact, we have probably all felt this at certain moments -early on in the strike I certainly had some dread of seeing more reports about 'nationalist' workers. And at the beginning it was indeed absolutely necessary to confront the 'British jobs' bollocks head on, which is what the ICC tried to do in our general statement. In fact, precisely because militant workers up and down the country did argue firmly against the nationalist slogan, they were key to the development of a real process of reflection and discussion which resulted in real gains in class awareness, including the beginnings of an internationalist practice. Revol seems to be fixated on the initial dangers that faced the movement and is missing the significant advance that has taken place.

posi
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Joined: 24-09-05
Feb 7 2009 08:19

While I agree with the critiques of revol's position above, he does seem to me to have asked a good question -

Quote:
The nature of contracting work is rather different, for example there would be a number of firms competing with each other for the building contract at the site, including british firms with british workforces from other parts of the country. An Italian firm won the contract and are using their Italian workforce, likewise if a Cornish or Scottish firm had won the contract it may well have used it's own workforce too, which of course would well have been different from the workers who'd been previously laid off. Now honestly do you think these strikes would have happened if it had been a Cornish firm that had won and used it's own mostly West Country workforce?

Is this an accurate characterisation? Is it the case that firms often bus entire workforces from one part of the UK to another, excluding local workforces? If this is true it would highlight that a large part of the motivation for the strike was related to specifically nationalist sentiment - even if the demands were essentially reasonable, which I think they were, it still would have taken an incident involving foreign workers to trigger it. So I'd like to know.

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oisleep
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Feb 7 2009 11:14

are these parallels with bussing in workforces from one part of the uk to the other missing the point a bit?

it's my understanding that if this was the case those workers would still enjoy the same terms & conditions based on the collective agreements for that particular industry - if a foreign EU contractor however brings in workers from abroad under the posted worker scheme, then because in the UK collective agreements don't have legal status, they are only required to comply with statutory obligations like minimum wage etc.. In france and germany i'm sure collective agreements have legal status which would prevent this happening - so as far as the UK is concerned it leaves the door open to social dumping and the race to the bottom etc.. etc..

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madashell
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Feb 7 2009 11:51
oisleep wrote:
it's my understanding that if this was the case those workers would still enjoy the same terms & conditions based on the collective agreements for that particular industry - if a foreign EU contractor however brings in workers from abroad under the posted worker scheme, then because in the UK collective agreements don't have legal status, they are only required to comply with statutory obligations like minimum wage etc.. In france and germany i'm sure collective agreements have legal status which would prevent this happening - so as far as the UK is concerned it leaves the door open to social dumping and the race to the bottom etc.. etc..

IIRC they can pay minimum wage for the workers' country of origin if it's within the EU.

posi
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Feb 7 2009 13:17

Yeah, but that makes it dependent on whether there was undercutting or not. While I agree it's plausible that there was, I don't think that's the only basis, or even the main basis, on which the strikes were carried out.

And I'm fairly sure they have to pay domestic minimum wage for the country the work is done in. Union agreements won't necessarily apply though...

Caiman del Barrio
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Joined: 28-09-04
Feb 7 2009 14:30

Yeah I think it's a red herring to construct hypothetical scenarios in which British workers were bussed cross-country. I mean, the linguistic barriers are obviously considered to be a benefit for Total and IREM, a part of a strategy of enforced segregation preventing fraternisation.