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Protesters congratulated for exposing 'exploitation' Talks fail to halt fresh series of wildcat strikes.

Byline: Alan Jone

FRESH wildcat strikes were held yesterday in the row over foreign workers as Labour MPs lined up to congratulate unions for exposing the "exploitation" of British employees.

Crucial talks aimed at resolving the dispute continued but they failed to halt a series of walkouts at power stations and other sites across the UK.

Hundreds of strikers held another protest at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire, where the dispute flared after a contract was awarded to an Italian firm, which hired its own workforce from Italy and Portugal.

Unofficial strike action at the plant has sparked copycat protests, with around 500 workers at Shell's Stanlow Oil Refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, and 250 at Hartlepool engineering company Heerema joining the national protest yesterday.

Protests have also been held in recent days outside Aberthaw Power Station and at the LNG plant in Pembrokeshire.

Heerema employee Steve Sanderson, who has worked at the firm for seven months, said: "Alot of the lads here don't have permanent jobs and there is a lot of uncertainty around."

Cheshire Police said they had a number of officers at Fiddlers Ferry power station in Widnes, Cheshire, as "a precautionary measure" after more than 200 employees walked out for another day.

Labour MP John Mann (Bassetlaw) tabled a Commons early day motion "deploring" the use of foreign workers at the Lindsey refinery, and congratulating unions for "exposing this exploitation and the absence of equal opportunities to apply for all jobs".

The MP said imminent large capital projects, including new power stations, should be built by "companies employing primarily British labour on decent pay and conditions".

The SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson requested that the Commons European Scrutiny Committee examine the legislation covering free movement of labour.

Derek Simpson, joint leader of the Unite union, said the strikes were not about "race or immigration".

He told ultra right-wing groups that their "politics of hate" was not welcome on construction sites across the UK.

"The unofficial action taking place across the UK is not about race or immigration - it's about class. It's about employers who exploit workers regardless of their nationality by undercutting their hard-won pay and conditions.

"These are rights that trade unionists have fought long and hard for while ultra right-wing groups did nothing but stoke hatred in our towns and cities.

"Trade unionists stand against everything the BNP stand for."

Dai Davies, the Independent MP for Blaenau Gwent, said foreign workers should not be blamed for taking jobs in Britain but rather blamed politicians who had embraced the "globalisation" agenda.

He said: "It is vital that we don't get seduced in to the right wing view that ordinary, fearful, workers from somewhere else are 'stealing our jobs'. It is even more vital that we all recognise why hundreds of millions of jobs have disappeared worldwide, and even more jobs have become low-paid, and with no security. The forces of 'efficiency' and of 'globalisation' have no loyalty to any one, any group, any community."

Yesterday's talks were being held under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas and involved unions, Total, which owns the Lincolnshire oil refinery, the Italian firm at the centre of the row, as well as shop stewards.

CAPTION(S):

ANGER: Protesters gather yesterday outside the Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire where the dispute flared after a contract was awarded to an Italian firm, which hired its own workforce from Italy and Portugal
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 4, 2009
Words:574
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