British trade unions reach deal over foreign workers (Lead)

February 5th, 2009 - 12:10 am ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 4 (DPA) Demonstrators at an oil refinery in Britain were Wednesday urged to abandon their protest after a deal was reached in marathon talks between trade unions and employers at the plant owned by French energy company Total.Trade union officials said they had won a pledge from management at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire, eastern England, that 100 new jobs would be created for British workers at the plant, the equivalent of 50 percent of the 200 posts under dispute.

Tony Ryan, from the strike committee, told protestors that they had obtained a pledge for the creation of around 100 new jobs for a minimum of nine weeks.

“We’ve been offered what we went in for, really, which is 50:50,” he said. Staff at the refinery are to meet union officials Thursday to vote on the proposal.

Under the agreement reached, none of the 200 foreign workers already at the site would lose their jobs or have to return home, reports said.

Earlier Wednesday, British trade union representatives rejected a proposal, brokered by the conciliation service Acas, that would have provided 60 jobs for British workers.

The refinery has been hit by a week of wildcat protests from workers, angry at the import of some 200 construction specialists from Italy and Portugal, employed by Italian firm IREM to build a new de-sulphurization plant at the site.

The unofficial strikes spread to some 20 other sites in Britain at the end of last week.

“We are pleased that our grievances are beginning to be recognised. There is still some way to go but at least people are beginning to understand what we have been saying,” said Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union.

However, trade union leaders have stressed that, apart from the localised dispute at the Lindsey refinery, the “wider problem” of European employers bringing in their own workforce on projects had to be addressed.

“Even if this dispute is settled there is still a major problem about how these foreign companies, who win contracts and come complete with a workforce, are going to create other difficulties,” said Derek Simpson, leader of the Unite trade union.

He said a concept had to be worked out whereby jobs created by such contracts were open to everyone, British workers and those from other European Union (EU) member countries.

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