Striking power workers in Lincolnshire are this morning voting on a deal agreed by union leaders yesterday after marathon talks facilitated by ACAS.
Union leaders met with the Total owners of the Lindsey Oil Refinery at Killingholme in a bid to end the unofficial action that broke out last Friday over the use of cheap labour by Italian contractor, IREM.
Workers walked out after IREM, which had imported its own Italian and Portuguese labour force, refused UK workers the opportunity to apply for new construction jobs at the site.
On the recommendation of the strike committee a deal, offering 60 new jobs, was rejected by a mass meeting yesterday morning.
Union officials said yesterday that under a new deal that 50 per cent of disputed jobs will go to British workers.
They added that this will amount to 102 jobs, that these are all new jobs and that no Italian or Portuguese workers will lose their jobs.
Commenting after yesterday morning’s mass meeting on the first deal put to the strikers, Unite shop steward Kenny Ward said: ‘There would have been a 50-50 split in this contract, a split of 50 per cent of British workers being brought in.
‘That is nowhere near the reality of what the unions have been dealing with.
‘The offer that was put on the table was significantly lower than that, and that has been rejected this morning.’
Total have been claiming that the foreign workers are not on lower rates.
Ward said that negotiators wanted to see the terms and conditions in the Italian and Portuguese contract.
But he was doubtful whether contractor IREM would go along with that.
Ward continued: ‘The offer was turned down because it was derisory, a derisory olive branch, and overwhelmingly it was rejected, and quite rightly so.
‘They seem to forget that the issue here is access to jobs.
‘Access to jobs, not what the principal contractors and the sub contractors think is the right amount of the indigenous population that should be given that access. That is the position.
‘It’s a very difficult one and I support everything that the negotiators say.’
Ward stressed: ‘The men are absolutely determined to achieve a victory here.
‘Not just the men, but the women, the workers, the communities and the population of this country, can see the injustice that has been practised with subcontractors and principal contractors having one European worker fight another European worker for a job and driving and dumbing down wages to increase profits for the companies theirselves.’
He called on Mandelson to ‘go back to Europe’ to the unelected ‘right-wing judges’ and ‘review and throw out these particular judgements that have been made, that give the employers and give the companies the ability to exploit Italians, exploit Portuguese, exploit the British worker in this country and maximise profits.
‘That is the reality of this situation. What is the precedent that that sets for other contract negotiations?
‘It sets a precedent within the UK, but it also sets a precedent within the European Union, because this isn’t just endemic within our country, it’s endemic within Europe.
‘This is a European-wide practice of exploitation, of victimisation and of discrimination. It needs stamping out.’
He urged Mandelson to ‘go back to your European Parliament’, to ‘get real’ and ‘listen to what the people say, because you are not in touch.
‘You’re not in touch. The politicians are not in touch, and the judges of the European Court aren’t in touch either’, Ward concluded.