Brown condemns refinery workers strikes

British PM Gordon Brown has condemned strikes that occurred last week in support of refinery workers in Lincolnshire who protested Total UK's contracting foreign workers to build a diesel HDS unit.

Uchenna Izundu
OGJ International Editor

LONDON, Feb. 2 -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has condemned strikes that occurred last week in support of refinery workers in Lincolnshire who protested Total UK Ltd.'s contracting foreign workers to build a diesel hydrodesulfurization unit.

Brown said that, although he understood the British workers' anger about job insecurity amid the economic downturn, he believed strikes were not the best way to deal with the problem. He said the government was doing everything it could to stimulate employment and improve the economy.

It is feared there could be mass industrial protests across Britain starting Feb. 2 as unions complain that Total's multimillion contract to IREM SPA reneges on promises Brown made to provide "British jobs for British workers." Five British companies tendered for the work but were unsuccessful.

On Jan. 30, over 1,000 employees held unofficial strikes at other refineries and plants, including the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland run by Ineos Group, a refinery in Wilton in northern England operated by Petroplus AG, a gas terminal near Peterhead in northeast Scotland, and the Aberthaw power plant in Wales.

Unite union is calling for a national protest in Westminster as well.

The British workers at Total's 200,000 b/d Lindsey refinery in eastern England claim that skilled local men are being laid off in favor of cheap labor from abroad, a charge Total denies (OGJ Online, Jan. 30, 2009).

Total said: "We recognize the concerns of contractors, but we want to stress that there will be no direct redundancies as a result of this contract being awarded to IREM and that all IREM staff will be paid the same as the existing contractors working on the project."

It added that there are also 200-1,000 contractors working at the refinery, the vast majority of which work for UK companies employing local people.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com.

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