Workers at the Lindsey Oil refinery site have been demonstrating
over redundancies and sackings made by Total, the multinational company that
owns Lindsey, and contractor Shaws. Nearly 650 workers were given their cards
by a management determined to break the union. In a show of equal
determination, workers on other sites around the country have been coming out
The latest dispute was sparked after Shaws recently sent out 80
redundancy notices to its contract staff, 51 of which were to be effective
within a week, the other 29 workers being given a “stay of execution” (as one
worker put it) for a month. To add insult to injury, Robert Becket Charlton,
another contractor on the same site, took on nearly 50 workers at the same time
for new work. Why would one contractor lay off one set of workers whilst
another took on new workers? The lads at Lindsey think Total are trying to get
rid of the workers who took part in the last set of strikes in February over
exploitation of cheap labour. We agree.
Immediately, the construction workers at Lindsey came out on strike.
For taking part in this ‘illegal’ action, Total have summarily dismissed
hundreds of workers, telling them to re-apply, where they may be considered.
The workers are having none of it. They burned their letters of redundancy at a
mass-meeting following the picket. “We all go back together,” was the line.
Socialist Appeal supporters were at the picket, standing shoulder-to-shoulder
with the strikers.
In a cowardly act, the Unite Union leadership have refused to come
out and support the striking workers. In fact, one worker showed us a letter he
got from Unite (signed by Derek Simpson), in
the same envelope as his sacking notice from Total. It read:
“Your union has repudiated the call (or calls) for industrial action
to which this Notice relates and will give no support to unofficial industrial
action taken in response to it (or them). If you are dismissed while taking
unofficial industrial action, you will have no right to complain of unfair
This is a disgusting way to treat workers and trade unionists, who
pay their union subs hoping to be represented by their union! If Simpson and Co.
are unprepared to support workers defending their jobs, they should stand aside
for a new leadership that has some bottle. As one Socialist Appeal supporter
put it at the Lindsey mass meeting, “what is Simpson afraid of? If Total and
the government dare invoke anti-union laws, they’ll face a massive backlash by
workers across the country. The working class is in no mood to tolerate such
To his credit, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny has finally come out
in support of the strike and the GMB has pledged £100,000 in financial aid to
the hardship fund. Some workers have threatened to tear up their Unite cards
and join GMB. But whilst Derek Simpson and his allies have behaved in a
disgusting way, the local Unite shop stewards have supported and lead the
strike. We urge Unite members to support their militant shop stewards and hold
the leadership to account, rather than abandon the union altogether.
Socialist Appeal fully supports the struggle of Lindsey workers
against the greed of the Total bosses. This is an attack not only on Lindsey
workers, but on construction workers up and down the country, and an attempt to
shred the NAECI national agreement guaranteeing working conditions. If the
bosses get away with it, they will eventually be able to force workers onto
individual contracts, and thus attack wages and conditions. We must not let
this happen! Already, workers in 19 construction sites across the country have
come out in solidarity actions, including Ferrybridge and Cottam. All trade
union branches should pass messages of support to show the Lindsey workers that
an injury to one is an injury to all. If Total won’t budge, we need a national
construction strike to show them we won’t be treated like this!
sacked workers – solidarity action now!
action across the country – for a national strike now!
Blue Book – fair conditions for all workers on site!
No to victimisation of
Socialist Appeal Editorial: 23 June 2009