Archive for the ‘energy’ Tag

Turbine factory shuts over sit-in

Turbine factory shuts over sit-in

A sit-in protest by about 25 workers has closed the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight.

Danish company Vestas Windsystems plans to lay off 625 workers at the end of July, despite rising profits.

It said the Newport factory was being closed due to reduced demand for wind turbines in northern Europe.

Those inside the Newport offices say they will stay until “someone listens”. Vestas said a consultation on the site’s future was still on-going.

The workers began their protest at about 1930 BST on Monday.


Total and unions reach deal on oil refinery wildcats

Total and unions reach deal on oil refinery wildcats

Early reports indicate a deal to end the bitter jobs dispute at the Total-run Lindsey oil refinery, which has led to unofficial walkouts by thousands of workers across the country.

The agreement follows talks between union leaders and employers of contract staff at the North Lincolnshire site. Unions said the deal involved the reinstatement of 647 workers sacked for taking unofficial strike action and would be put to the workers on Monday.

Total said it was pleased that “a positive conclusion” had been reached. In a statement on Friday, a spokesman for the company said:

“Total is pleased that the contract companies and the unions were able to reach a positive conclusion at talks last night.

“We expect this means that the contractors will be able to get back to work as soon as possible and get the project completed on time and with no further disruption or additional costs.”

The Lindsey workers went on strike on 11 June after a sub-contractor cut 51 jobs. It is thought those people will also be offered the chance to return to work.

The dispute sparked wildcat sympathy walkouts involving thousands of workers at power stations and oil and gas facilities across the country.

Even in a slump, strikes and occupations can get results

Even in a slump, strikes and occupations can get results

A revolution is taking place in industrial relations, the Confederation of British Industry claims, courtesy of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. A new “solidarity of employers and their employees” has taken hold, John Cridland, the CBI’s deputy director-general enthused this week, as managements and staff roll up their sleeves to take the “difficult decisions” needed to survive the slump.

If so, news of the new understanding clearly hasn’t reached Lincolnshire, where hundreds of engineering ­construction workers at the Lindsey oil refinery burned dismissal notices on Monday after they were sacked for going on strike – and thousands walked out in sympathy across the energy industry for the third time in five months.

The latest dispute began nearly a fortnight ago, when a subcontractor for Total, which owns the refinery, made 51 workers redundant while another contractor was hiring 61 staff on the same project. After hundreds stopped work in protest and unofficial strikes spread by text and flying pickets across Britain, 647 workers were summarily sacked on Thursday night.

By any reckoning, this was surely a provocative and self-defeating move. Not only had the same workforce already demonstrated its capacity to shut down the site – and significant sections of the wider industry – if it believed agreements were being undercut. But the layoffs were in direct violation of a deal to settle an earlier dispute. Perhaps the idea was finally to bring to heel what one manager described as an “unruly workforce”. But after point-blank refusals to negotiate until the workers had applied for their jobs back, the contractors blinked once again and were back in talks on Tuesday, now due to be resumed .

This was, after all, the same group of workers whose unofficial strikes stopped refineries and power stations all over the country in February after a Sicilian contractor shipped in a non-union, and apparently less skilled, Italian and Portuguese workforce. That first Lindsey walkout was portrayed as anti-foreigner because of “British jobs for British workers” placards held by some strikers, as to a lesser extent was another strike in May over a refusal to take on locally based labour at ExxonMobil’s South Hook terminal in Wales.

In fact, both walkouts were clearly aimed at halting the exploitation of EU directives and European court ­judgments to undermine the terms and conditions of all workers in the industry, British and migrant alike – which is why hundreds of Polish workers joined the stoppages. And, crucially, they were successful. In a profitable and highly contractualised industry, a tightly knit workforce has turned a fragmentation designed to benefit employers to their own advantage.

Now, as the unions prepare to ballot 30,000 workers to turn the wildcat walkouts into an official strike, they look set to prevail again – just as Grangemouth oil refinery workers and Shell tanker drivers did last year in battles over pension rights and pay. Success seems to be catching.

Energy wildcat strikes spread across UK

Energy wildcat strikes spread across UK

The oil refinery wildcat strike over redundancies has escalated as workers from several power stations and oil terminals across the UK took unofficial industrial action.

The dispute flared a week ago at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire when a contractor laid off 51 workers while another employer on the site was hiring staff.

Around 1,200 contract workers at the terminal, which is owned by Total, have been taking unofficial action all week as efforts were made to convene talks.

Sources said today that workers at several other sites across the country joined the industrial action, hitting power stations at Drax and Eggborough in Yorkshire, Ratcliffe and West Burton in Nottinghamshire, Fiddlers Ferry in Cheshire and Aberthaw in South Wales.

Contractors at a BP refinery near Hull also joined the strike action.

Mass Arrest of 114 Climate Activists in Raid

Mass Arrest of 114 Climate Activists in Raid

114 activists were arrested in a 2am police raid on a community centre and school on Sneinton Dale, Nottingham, early on Easter Monday, 13th April 2009. It is believed that a demonstration was planned at the E.On powerstation at Ratcliffe-on-Soar as a spokesperson for the company claimed that it was the “planned target of an organised protest”. The Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station is the 3rd largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK and has been previously targeted by activists. Similar to past police actions, some of the homes of those arrested have been raided while they were held in custody. It has been confirmed that 6 homes have been raided in Nottingham, including the Sumac Centre, and personal paperwork and computers have been seized. Activists are now being released on bail, to appear in court on 14th July, with no other conditions. More raids are expected.

This police action is reminiscent of the arrests of climate change activists in April 2007 when they were on their way to protest against the M1 widening. While the protestors were held in custody their homes were raided and computers were taken. A year after the arrests the M1 case was thrown out of court.

Breakthrough as half of jobs in foreign labour row ‘will go to British workers’

Breakthrough as half of jobs in foreign labour row ‘will go to British workers’

TALKS aimed at resolving the bitter row over foreign workers ended last night with the outline of a possible deal aimed at breaking the deadlock.
The conciliation service Acas chaired yesterday’s meeting between union officials, representatives of Total, which owns he Lincolnshire oil refinery at the centre of the dispute, and the Italian sub-contractor which has hired its own workforce.

ions claimed that British workers had been excluded from the contract with Irem, which has brought around 200 Italian and Portuguese workers to the UK.

Union sources said the suggested deal involved offering half the jobs in the disputed contract to UK workers.

Acas said in a brief statement last night: “Conclusions are to be discussed with a large group of local trade union officials first thing tomorrow morning. This will be followed by a mass meeting of the workforce.”

Wildcats and migrants and oil (oh my!)

Note: this was written fairly casually and as such does not represent any kind of formal “position” so much as a reflection on events so far.

This Friday saw workers at oil refineries and a range of other sites around the country downing tools and walking out on strike in protest at their treatment by their employers. The actions were provoked by the use of migrant workers – predominantly Italian and Portuguese – at a power station in Lincolnshire, but have spread around the country, encompassing a range of oil refineries, nuclear power stations and other energy infrastructure. The actions have created a great deal of controversy, due both to their unofficial nature and the nationalist element perceived by many.

Much of the latter controversy has centred around the slogan “British Jobs for British Workers.” The slogan – used by Gordon Brown and adopted by some strikers during protests – has led to criticism of the strike from some quarters as simply racist. A deeper examination of the issues yields a different picture, however. As quoted by the Guardian on Friday, interviewing a striker:

“I was laid off as a stevedore two weeks ago. I’ve worked in Cardiff and Barry Docks for 11 years and I’ve come here today hoping that we can shake the government up. I think the whole country should go on strike as we’re losing all British industry. But I’ve got nothing against foreign workers. I can’t blame them for going where the work is.”

While far-right, nationalist and racist groups have tried to co-opt these actions, they have been universally rejected and kicked out by the workers.

The issue is class, not race.

Solidarity actions continue to spread, while strikers at the original oil refinery have agreed the following program:

No victimisation of workers taking solidarity action.

All workers in UK to be covered by National Joint Council for the Engineering Construction Industry Agreement.

Union controlled registering of unemployed and locally skilled union members,with nominating rights as work becomes available.

Government and employer investment in proper training / apprenticeships for new generation of construction workers – fight for a future for young people.

All Immigrant labour to be unionised.

Trade Union assistance for immigrant workers – including interpreters – and access to Trade Union advice – to promote active integrated Trade Union Members.

Build links with construction trade unions on the continent.

The perception of events as being largely or exclusively about nationalism is one which has been enthusiastically promoted by the media, as can be particularly noticed in this video clip. In it, a clip from one BBC news broadcast shows a striker claiming that he “can’t work with” the foreign contractors. In the second, the same interview is shown, yet the striker clarifies that this is meant in a literal sense – their work force is segregated.

Similarly, an article reporting on a walkout at Langage Power Station managed the following:

600 WORKERS have walked out in a wildcat strike at Langage Power Station in protest at the use of foreign workers.

Jerry Pickford, regional officer for Unite South West, said the workers had walked out in support of similar action across the rest of the UK.

The union, which says it does not condone the unauthorised strike, says the entire workforce, including hundreds of Polish workers, is unofficially on strike today.

While the strikes began as unofficial actions by workers acting independently – in part due to union laws prohibiting secondary strikes – many unions have issued statements and taken involvement with the strikers. In particular, Unite has issued a three point plan for dealing with the dispute, as follows:

1. Resolve the immediate problem that exists at Total’s Lindsey oil refinery. Reach an agreement which gives fair consideration for UK labour to work on the contract.

2. Carry out an investigation into the practices of contractors and subcontactors in the engineering and construction industry. Follow by action from the government which will insist that companies applying for contracts on public infrastructure projects, sign up to Corporate Social Responsibility agreeements which commit to fair access for UK Labour.

3. Overturn European legal precedents which allow employers to undercut wages and conditions. A European Court of Justice precedent gives employers a license for ‘social dumping’ and prevents unions form taking action to prevent the erosion of UK workers’ pay and condition (see notes to editors).

These strikes, regardless of the nationalistic language used by many, are a manifestation of very real concerns over unemployment and poverty at a time when jobs are being cut around the country.

Further, as described above, the participation of “foreign” workers in the strikes and calls for migrant workers to be unionised point to a complexity in the situation which goes beyond the simple “local vs foreign” concept portrayed by the media, and identifies the more fundamental issue – the employed and the employer.

Capitalism places workers in competition with one another based on a variety of criteria, one of which – alongside race, sexuality and gender, among others – is nationality. Yet we are strongest when we work through these boundaries. In many cases, the use of migrant workers is seen as desireable due to being able to offer lower pay and working conditions, and the knowledge that these workers are often less likely to unionise.

At the centre of the dispute is the Posted Workers Directive. As pointed out by BBC News:

What is interesting to me is not that the compromise plan proposes half the jobs going to British workers, but that the Italian company has accepted that all its workers on this job will get the standard terms and conditions as negotiated in the past by British unions. The company says they were anyway, but few of the protesters believe them.

European case law suggests that the company could be allowed to pay the Italians below the going rate. The European Court of Justice established that precedent in the Laval judgment.

The Latvian construction company, Laval, had been hired to build a school in Sweden. The EU rules say that companies must obey the minimum standards of the host country, such as maximum working hours and the minimum wage. Sweden has no minimum wage, and all such standards are set by agreements between unions and employers. Laval was expected to sign up to these conditions but refused. After a strike and many twists and turns the ECJ ruled the unions were in the wrong. Ever since then the European trade union movement has been asking for the rules to be rewritten, so that foreign companies are made to respect union agreements in host countries, or in that unlovely phrase “an end to social dumping”.

Efforts to organise unions on an international scale, and to bring migrant and local workers together on the same level, offer a real chance to work past the boundaries used to keep us apart and move push for common interests together.

This strike – with its militancy, energy, confidence and speed – is, however imperfect, an inspiration.

Coal rail terminal shut down by local residents and Climate campaigners

Coal rail terminal shut down by local residents and Climate campaigners

This morning thirty campaigners from Coal Action Scotland together with local residents peacefully blockaded the entrance to the Scottish Coal-operated Ravenstruther coal rail terminal in South Lanarkshire. Having stopped its reopening after the weekend, this action is currently preventing the delivery of thousands of tonnes of coal to power stations across Scotland. Protestors intend to stay in place as long as possible.

With Scotland’s CO2 emissions increasing significantly, continuing the consumption of coal will make it impossible for Scotland to meet its 80% target reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Angus Mcloud said “The fact is that the government will not meet its own targets. This confirms what climate protestors have believed all along – that the Scottish government is paying lip service to the dangers of climate change.”

The action is aiming to disrupt the operations of Scottish Coal and Scottish Power in the region. The protestors are acting to oppose the five open cast coal mines that deliver coal to the rail terminal and in resistance to the thirteen new open cast coal mines due to open in Scotland.

Protestors erected and scaled a 15ft scaffolding tripod, blocking trucks from entering the terminal. Others are locked by their necks to a conveyor belt and a bulldozer, preventing coal stockpiles from being loaded onto trains.

Tilly Gifford who is at the site said: “In the face of dangerous runaway climate change, increasing our dependence on coal – the most polluting of the fossil fuels – is simply unacceptable. We urgently need to make the transition to renewable energy and close existing mines. We shouldn’t even be thinking about new ones.”

Interview with Dave Douglass about the Climate Camp

Interview with Dave Douglass about the Climate Camp

At the camp you joked about the police presence being nothing compared to your previous experiences. How did you find the Climate Camp this summer?

Well I’ve been up against the law since the age of 14, arrested for hitting the prime minister with a tomato and assaulting the police at 15, through to Holy Loch and Aldermaston’s right up to the late 60s. Grosvenor Square, London. Dam Square Amsterdam, Belfast, and pickets in the 72 / 74 miners strike. Mass confrontations in 84/5 Orgreave, hit squads and petrol bombs, the cops weren’t a surprise at all, but I was just making a joke I wasn’t trying to ‘pull rank’ or see who had the raggiest arse.

Before the camp you wrote an open letter to the Climate Camp, why did you choose to do that?

I was incensed. Because it seems to me, the miners throughout history have had nothing but betrayal and being stabbed in the back. ‘The Green Movement’ we had foolishly thought was our ally. An ally who could see that we stood against nuclear power, civil and military, were against opencast mining, and were for practical renewables.

We thought they understood the politics of energy and why it was the miners had been almost wiped off the face of the earth (in Britain) in class war. We had set up an alliance Energy 2000 way back in the mid 80s with Greenpeace and environmental groups (by ‘we’ I mean the NUM) to campaign for Clean Coal Technology, and an end to Nuclear power, for solar, tidal, and geo-thermal and phasing in practical world applicable programmes like solar power farms in the worlds deserts to supply the world with ever lasting power, free and clean, with clean coal buying us the time. Then just when we are on our last chance for survival, just when we are trying to knock back the major nuclear construction programme in favour of clean coal and carbon capture, the Climate Camp marches in and attacks Drax.