An assessment of the spread of the refinery wildcat strikes - purportedly over the hiring of foreign workers - and the media coverage of them.
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 insecurity 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 workings of the economy and 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 appears that this increasing insecurity 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.
Django, a libcom user and member of the Anarchist Federation stated:
"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.
The economy is proving unable to provide the work we need to get by to increasing numbers of skilled workers, and so individual workers are faced with increasing insecurity. 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. This is added to the xenophobia of the media, who otherwise ignore or criticise any strike action. The Italian and Portuguese workers at the site face unemployment at home as British workers face it here, this the problem is at root an economic one to which nationalism offers no solution, only scapegoats."
Quote: British jobs for
is this a factual statement?
I was born and raised no
I was born and raised no more than 15 miles from the site in question and I know the area well. I think one of the main reasons that a racial element has been ascribed to the situation is that the area, unlike the conurbations of South Yorks. for instance, have had a very low proportion of ethnic minorities and I would say that the workforce have had little chance to integrate. However that is not to say there is a racist intent, merely that the more politically motivated shop stewards are using the spectre of a foreign workforce 'taking our jobs' to call the workforce out. There is a large lack of skilled jobs in the Humberside area generally, and at the moment a lack of manual work even. Only 15% of the working age population have a degree; half the national average. It is no wonder people are trying to keep hold of their jobs given such strictures. The contractors are clutching at straws and the use of foreign labour conveniently seems to be a clarion call. If it keeps more jobs and leads to a change of policy at Total - then it seems a pragmatic means to an end.
Quote: is this a factual
I've noticed what looked like union placards (more like A4 laminated sheets) all with the same slogan, which look like they might have a Unite logo at the bottom, repeated in much of the footage that's been on News 24. I'll try to look more closely at the telly next time it's on and see if it's actually right. That's the impression I got from the footage though.
Not to mention that all the Unite officials - and I think a branch secretary ("my members") interviewed in a pub today - have been saying either exactly those words or pretty much, so it'd be very consistent with their line to be printing the same thing to wave at the TV cameras as well.
Not as immediately damning as professionally printed Unite placards, but given it's only been three or four days I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the photocopied stuff was 'official' - at least on a local/regional basis.
So it's clear that the 'foreign workers' line is being pushed by both the media and local officials being interviewed. It's encouraging to see some quotes from participants which suggest that's by far not the only aspect to the strikes though
I copied this from the
I copied this from the channel 4 website
From an AF comrade who works
From an AF comrade who works in a refinery in South Wales:
most of the placards do
most of the placards do appear to be union ones - the first few i saw had no union markings on them hence the original questioning of the statement
www.bearfacts.co.uk I have
I have found a website made by workers from Straythorpe which might be of interest:
In a forum thread called "Us brits!", you find the following exchange:
"We did not take this to a racial level, you did, now get ready to reap what you sow. I have worked in your country and respected your culture and industrial rules, just remember you drew first blood not us. Go home now, you have now outstayed the welcome we gave you by not involving you in our plight."
"We want to be careful with the nationalism, lads, so that things don't turn nasty. I've got nothin against the Italian workers as such, they're just doing a job, putting food on the table for their families. They're not W*** (Without Papers- as they are EU citizens and are legally allowed to work here)- besides this is racist. Many of us have worked abroad - Germany, Spain, Middle East - did we think or care about jobs in those countries? Getting at the workers is just going to give us a bad reputation, and turn the public against us.
The problem is with the tenders, Total management and probably the govt. for allowing foreign companies to undercut. The govt. shouldn't allow this to happen. They haven't thought about the social price to the area, only the price of the contract.
These jobs should go to British workers, cos we can do the work and we need it. Just leave the racism and aggro at home- it doesn't do anyone any favours."
At the Bearfacts page there
At the Bearfacts page there is also this thread:http://www.bearfacts.co.uk/Forum/index.php?topic=155.0 .
The views are mixed: but there is a real debate going on and real contradictions in the movement, and those left groups who have expressed absolute opposition to the strikes are making a bad mistake. Such positions of hostility - or indifference to the manner in which the strike is ended - leave the way for the far-right to exploit the mood and win support.
Since I do not think workers are stupid I don't think the strikers have all been tricked into supporting the BNP, nor that those that express nationalist/chauvinist sentiment are unwinnable. Workers' Power have called for an immediate end to the strike and for the TUC to launch a fresh one with different slogans. Ridiculous! Why not fight, as much as we can, to change the movement which is already showing, whatever its slogans, that you CAN break the anti-union laws and can escape the control of the bureaucracy? The BNP has to relate to it as a strike and act of workers' solidarity, not only as a nationalist protest.
I think it is mistaken to picket the Unite HQ to demand that the strikes end. The symbolism seems like calling for the union leadership to rein in its members, whereas in fact surely we believe it possible to relate to the actually existing movement.
(All that said, I have doubts as to how well the media is presenting the actual politics of strikers, to what extent nationalism is dominant or it's just an attempt to portray workers as a racist underclass, whether the British workforce is all-white, whether the BNP have any real influence, etc. etc.)
Statement by a member of the
Statement by a member of the LOR Strike Committee.
This must be the beginning
This must be the beginning
It has taken from the 1950's right up to the present time for the people in our country to work out just what is happening in our country. The three main parties Labour, Conservises,and Lib/dems are all backed by the same group of Media and Multinationals, only by voting out side of these 3 main parties will there ever be any change. We are delighted that the people are at last beginning to wake up to what the aggender of this criminal group is, this has to be the start of what must become a revolution, to clear out these criminals who have gained power not just in the government but throughout the country through big business, and putting the people in power which is what democracy is. The government must always be our servants and never our masters, which is what they have become, so you can tell Lord Mandelson we don't buy it.
From the Socialist Unity
From the Socialist Unity site
Portuguese language internationalist statement;
Feel free to point out any probs with the translation
David, the translation looks
David, the translation looks fine to me, apart from a couple of minor points:
"Deve ser una greve para defender os empregos, não una serie de accões ..."
This should read - "Deve ser uma greve para defender os empregos, não uma serie de accões ..."
"Se o BNP chegam aos nossos piquetes ..."
I think this needs a future subjunctive in Portuguese (unlike in Spanish) - "Se o BNP chegar aos nossos piquetes ..."
Also "Os trabalhadores desconhecem as leis anti-sindicais e a burocracia sindical" might be better as "Os trabalhadores não fazem caso das leis anti-sindicais e da burocracia sindical" - i.e. the workers are taking no notice of anti-union laws rather than being unaware of them.
And "Forçaremos-lhes a escorrer" should perhaps be "Forçaremos-lhes a fugir" - i.e. force the BNP to run away rather than drain away.
The picket of the Unite HQ
The picket of the Unite HQ floundered:
Globalisation the new word
Globalisation the new word for SLAVERY.
Some interesting video
Some interesting video interviews with strikers
From The Telegraph - one worker saying that he'd expect workers in Europe to do the same if they were being prevented from accessing jobs.
A striker being very clear about the lack of hostility to foreign workers
Apparently the BBC news showed footage of BNP activists being given the boot from LOR last night, I didn't see this though.