19/06/2009

Jobs Axed As Oil Refinery Dispute Escalates

Nearly 700 workers have been sacked at an oil refinery following a bitter dispute over jobs.

About 1,200 contract workers took unofficial strike action in a dispute over 51 redundancies at its Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire.

Yesterday the dispute came to a head when workers from several power stations and oil plants across the UK took part in the wildcat strikes.

Hundreds of workers across England and Wales walked out on Friday in support, with Teeside, South Wales, Cheshire and West Yorkshire among those who walked out.

They claim an agreement made not to cut any jobs had been broken.

The company Total, which owns the plant, said no such agreement was in place.

French giant Total wrote to 647 workers at the plant, telling them they had until Monday to reapply for their jobs.

Talks aimed at resolving the dispute have not gone ahead.

Total bosses were due to meet with the conciliation service Acas and union chiefs in an attempt to halt the unofficial action that has hit 17 sites and involved hundreds of workers.

However, Acas said the talks did not happen.

Acas said in a statement: "We were invited by Total management for potential talks between the parties.

"After discussions between Total management and their contractors, they decided not to go ahead with the talks. We remain in touch with the parties."

Meanwhile, the oil and gas company confirmed hundreds of contractors on its HDS-3 construction project had been sacked.

"The contractor workforce has been engaged in an unofficial, illegal walk-out since last Thursday, June 11," Total said.

"Total can confirm, with regret, that our contractors have now started the process of ending the current employment contracts for their workforce on the HDS-3 construction project," the company said.

Total said it had "repeatedly sought to encourage the workforce to return to work so that proper negotiations can take place".

The contract workers have until 5pm on Monday, June 22, to reapply for their jobs.

Downing Street has criticised the strike action.

A spokesman said: "Unofficial strike action is never the right response to industrial relations problems.

(JM/BMcc)

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