Are these strikes and demonstrations really
part of a dispute against the use of foreign
No, the demonstrations and strikes are not
against the use of foreign labour, they are predominantly about equality and
fairness for British workers. At present, the new EU laws make it possible for
unscrupulous employers to totally exclude British workers from applying for UK
jobs and to exploit foreign workers by engaging them on contracts in this
country, at rates of pay and terms and conditions which are much lower than the
nationally agreed engineering construction industry rates. During these
disputes and demonstrations, the protestors have gone to great pains to explain
that they have no problem with foreign workers as they have worked alongside
their EU brothers for many years now, in complete harmony. Some areas of the
right wing press have attempted to sensationalise the issue by inferring that the
protestors were Xenophobic, or even worse by indicating that UK
construction had been infiltrated by the BNP, but this is simply not the case.
So what are you fighting against? What do you hope to gain?
The protestors hope to gain equality and fairness and for common sense to prevail. They want all workers to be covered by the national agreement that guarantees the same terms and conditions for everyone. If the protestors
were to fail in their quest, it would sound the death knell for the UK
construction worker in this country and their skills and expertise and job
opportunities would be lost forever, so the stakes are just too high for
workers not to take action.
Do you think the action at Lindsey refinery was a success? What did it achieve?
Yes, the action at Lindsey was a complete
success and it achieved many other very important objectives. Firstly it
created 102 new jobs for UK workers. It highlighted the plight of the UK
engineering construction industry and brought the issues forward into the
public consciousness and in doing so secures huge public sympathy and support.
It displayed a massive show of strength, volatility and unity from workers,
which both the government and unscrupulous employers believed had long since
ceased to exist. Even though, Lindsey is the first to make a significant
breakthrough, it is hoped that we can build on this victory and will now set a
precedent for all other UK contracts.
What are conditions like at the Isle of Grain (where there is due to be a demonstration on Wednesday February 11th)?
Getting information from foreign workers is
notoriously difficult as they are deliberately segregated from having any
contact with the UK labour force both at work and in their overnight
accommodation. This is a well known employer tactic, to avoid workers comparing
pay slips and terms and conditions of employment. Whilst details are very hard
to come by, it is quite clear that Polish workers engaged on the Isle Of Grain
are not being employed under the same terms of the NAECI blue book and do not
therefore achieve parity with their UK brothers. Ironically, this week when UK
workers in Plymouth walked out in support of their brothers at Lindsey,
Immingham and Staythorpe. Polish workers at Plymouth also walked out and stood
shoulder to shoulder with UK protestors on the protest line, as they had been
made aware that their terms and conditions of pay did not achieve parity and
that they were in fact being exploited.
How would you describe the mood of the
Determined, defiant and committed to
achieving their aims and objectives, no matter how long it takes.
What’s the next step? Where do we go from here?
The protests, lobbies and demonstrations
are to continue. There is much still to do and much that can still be done.
There will be a National demonstration organised shortly and lobby of
parliament to keep the issue in the public consciousness until it is resolved.
There have been calls to boycott all the products and services supplied by
companies who have exploited foreign workers and who have excluded UK workers.
In the end it all boils down to the fact
that we want fairness and equality and that is exactly what we intend to get.