Lindsey refinery workers to return to work

Striking workers at Total UK's Lindsey refinery in Lincolnshire will return to work Feb. 9 after accepting a deal that 102 new jobs would be created, a company spokeswoman told OGJ.

Uchenna Izundu
OGJ International Editor

LONDON, Feb. 6 -- Striking workers at Total UK Ltd.'s Lindsey refinery in Lincolnshire, England, will return to work Feb. 9 after accepting a deal that 102 new jobs would be created, a company spokeswoman told OGJ. The jobs would be advertised locally and are expected to be filled mainly by British workers.

The employees voted on the proposal early Feb. 5 after unions, the employment mediation service Acas, and Total held talks to end the strike, which lasted for more than a week and gained sympathy walkouts across the country at other refineries, gas terminals, and electric power stations (OGJ Online, Feb. 5, 2009).

The employees were unhappy that local unemployment is rising amid the recession yet foreign labor had been recruited by Italian subcontracting company Irem SPA to help construct a diesel hydrodesulfurization unit (OGJ Online, Jan. 30, 2009). Irem had been subcontracted by Jacobs Group Engineering Inc. to build a small part of the HDS unit that will be finished by yearend, the Total spokeswoman added. "Their work is less than 10% of the total estimated man hours on the project."

No foreign staff from Irem will lose their jobs as a result of the deal.

Unite union Joint General Secretary Derek Simpson said, "This is a good deal which establishes the principle of fair access for UK workers on British construction projects. We now expect other companies in the construction industry to level the playing field for UK workers."

The government welcomed the resolution of the dispute, but stressed it was important both to give British workers a fair chance and to enable other Europeans to work in the UK. But unemployed construction workers started a new protest over the use of foreign workers Feb. 5 at Staythorpe—a 1,650 MW gas fired power station in Nottingham— indicating that the issue has not been totally resolved.

The workers are asking Alstom to ensure that its subcontractors, Montpressa and FMM, open up their contracts to UK workers. Unite estimates that 600 workers will be needed to build the power station's turbine and boiler, and an additional 250 workers will be required to build a pipeline connecting the two.

In 2007, RWE PLC let a €850 million turnkey contract to Alstom to construct and provide maintenance support for the CCGT power plant.

With the development of new power stations in Britain, energy is one of the few sectors that anticipates a construction boom, so tensions between an open labor market and protectionism are likely to be played out.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com.

More in Refining & Processing