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Thousands of workers across Britain have walked out following protests over the use of foreigners at a Lincolnshire oil refinery.
By Stephen Adams
About 700 employees at the Ineos-owned Grangemouth plant on the Firth of Forth have begun an unofficial strike in solidarity with fellow energy workers at the Total Lindsey Oil Refinery on the North Lincolnshire coast. They have been joined by many hundreds more in Teeside, South Wales and other energy plants across Scotland.
The demonstrations has led to scenes reminiscent of the industrial disputes of the 1970s with hundreds of placard-waving protesters watched by ranks of police.
Staff at the Lindsey refinery originally began their strike on Wednesday to protest at Total’s decision to award a £200 million construction contract to Italian firm Irem, using foreign labour.
The refinery covers 500 acres and is the third largest in the UK, processing 10 million tonnes of crude per year – 200,000 barrels per day.
It is understood 100 Italian and Portuguese workers are currently on the site. They are expected to be joined by 300 more next month.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said the angry workers were “entitled to an answer”.
Earlier this month Shona McIsaac, the Labour MP for Cleethorpes, said that awarding the contract to a firm using foreign labour was like “a red rag to a bull”.
“Although I’m told there are no redundancies arising from the contract going to the Italian company, if you are out of work, it can seem so unfair,” she added.
Total has stressed that Irem staff will be paid at UK nationally agreed levels for the engineering construction industry, under the same terms and conditions as agreed with unions for the existing contractor workforce.