Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 13 February 2019

Lindsey oil refinery strike ten-year anniversary

When militant action stopped the 'race to the bottom'

Lessons for workers' struggles today

Lindsey oil refinery construction workers striking against EU-backed undermining of nationally agreed trade union conditions, photo Sean Figg

Lindsey oil refinery construction workers striking against EU-backed undermining of nationally agreed trade union conditions, photo Sean Figg   (Click to enlarge)

Keith Gibson, Lindsey strike committee member (2009) and Hull Socialist Party

On the tenth anniversary of the Lindsey Oil refinery strike it's important to reflect on the momentous strike wave waged by 1,000 steel construction workers in opposition to the EU Posted Workers' Directive (PWD).

At the heart of this struggle lay the issue of protecting the NAECI* agreement - the nationally agreed trade union right to standardised pay, terms and conditions. PWD workers are only entitled to 'minimum' labour standards, not NAECI standards.

In December 2008, workers were notified that one-third of the jobs at Lindsey would be given to the Italian firm IREM (an anti-union employer).

The PWD was, and still is, heralded by the bosses to be a right to 'freedom of movement' for all EU workers. Under this guise IREM brought Italian and Portuguese construction workers onto the job.

This 'freedom of movement' immediately set about segregating these overseas workers from their UK brothers.

Their living quarters? An isolated barge in Grimsby docks. Their work? A specified area at Lindsey refinery segregated from UK construction workers. The works bus - for overseas workers only - completed this worker segregation.

Suspicions of a breach in trade union-agreed NAECI pay was sought on many occasions and later confirmed.

The shop stewards called a meeting and advised the workforce to use the set grievance procedures. This was rejected and the workers took control.

A proposal for immediate strike action was overwhelmingly supported. Lindsey construction workers took unofficial strike action beginning on 29 January 2009.

The shop stewards stood down after having been overruled by the unofficial action. In this leadership vacuum IREM bosses continued to utilise the PWD in the hope of dividing the Lindsey workforce along 'nationality' lines in an attempt to weaken NAECI.

The capitalist press all sang in chorus. Labour prime minister Gordon Brown's infamous statement - "British jobs for British workers" - rang out on BBC news bulletins and via the pages of the capitalist press, in the hope of sowing division in the ranks of the Lindsey workforce.

Without any trade union resources to hand, a couple of strikers gave out posters brandishing Brown's statement.

On 2 February the newly formed Lindsey strike committee, including me, moved into action. The committee called for solidarity action on NAECI sites around the country on this same day, with over two dozen major construction sites walking out.

A whole series of wildcat (unofficial) strikes spread like a bolt of lightning throughout the country.

This 'spontaneous' strike wave, as described in the capitalist press, was in reality a collective workers' response from below: to strike in unity against IREM bosses' use of the EU's PWD legislation supported by its 27 capitalist heads of state.

The beginning of this leaderless unofficial strike had seen a few posters with the slogan 'British jobs for British workers'.

However, once the strike developed its own democratically elected strike committee, which pushed me forward as spokesman, things began to change.

The far-right BNP, now emboldened by Brown's nationalistic slogan and whipped up in the media, made the mistake of visiting the picket line. The construction workers didn't waste time in enforcing their eviction notice!

The Brown posters were rapidly replaced by posters and leaflets written in Italian appealing to our European brothers for unity via UK trade union membership, the right to a trade union interpreter, and the right to immediate protection under NAECI pay, terms and conditions.

Lindsey workers won their dispute and all their demands were met! Not one job loss occurred. Equal opportunities to work in the UK were secured via the 'worker strike committee formula' which agreed that: "For every UK worker employed on Lindsey an overseas worker would also be recruited".

Of the 198 construction jobs involved, 102 would go to local, previously unemployed construction workers - none of the migrant workers would lose their jobs for IREM.

Scandalously, the Socialist Workers' Party and some other left groups refused to support the struggle, falsely claiming that the Lindsey strikers were acting against migrant workers.


Each morning saw another leaflet produced by the Socialist Party explaining the issues - raising the demands which brought complete workers' unity against IREM bosses and the EU's PWD.

Each morning, alongside other members of the strike committee, I would address the workers and relay the solidarity messages pouring in from workers throughout Europe.

One message carried the invitation from the metal workers' union in Italy asking me to address a trade union workers' conference. To great applause of unity I addressed the conference later that summer.

Yet ten years on, the EUs' PWD is still being utilised, still being fought, amid promises of its removal.

In 2016 Unite, echoed by Labour, said any employer recruiting from abroad must ensure the workforce is covered by a proper union or collective bargaining agreement.

Ten years on and the 28 capitalist heads of state, including the Tory May government, continue to implement their austerity and privatisation programme that is pauperising millions throughout the EU - to benefit corporate elites.

The Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party, which could well be in office after the next general election, needs to learn from the Lindsey dispute.

Have faith in the working class to fight back! It is no use appealing to pro-capitalist MPs within the confines of parliament to act benevolently.

Labour, like the Lindsey strikers, needs to mobilise a campaign from below with a leadership that has the bottle to go all the way.

As long as the capitalist elites privately own and control our industries, utilities, banks and financial services, working-class people will continue to come under attack.

Labour needs to rally the trade union movement in the workplaces, on the streets, within our communities, raising the demand for a general election now!

There is a desperate need to politically arm the workers' movement with a Europe-wide socialist Brexit programme - against the EU's PWD; for trade union rights, repeal of anti-union laws, and defence of migrant workers against its brutal austerity and privatisation that daily pauperises millions to benefit the billionaires!

A socialist Europe, run for and by workers, would act as a mighty beacon of unity for a socialist world that could quickly organise, construct and maintain societies utilising science and technology to meet all our human and environmental needs.


On 11 June 2009 hundreds of Lindsey contract workers walked out on unofficial and 'illegal' strike action to stop 51 redundancies being imposed by site owner Total (the French oil giant) without consultation or the opportunity to transfer to another contractor.

In an act of defiance, the sacked construction workers burned their dismissal letters outside the refinery.

An elected strike committee, which included Socialist Party members, took the lead in organising the struggle for reinstatement.

Total responded to the unofficial strike by dismissing 647 workers. This forced the hands of the GMB and Unite trade unions to make the strike official.

After two weeks on strike, Total capitulated, withdrew the dismissals and rescinded the 51 redundancies. In addition, all workers were guaranteed a minimum four weeks work.

Once again, militant workers' action had paid off.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 13 February 2019:

What we think

Corbyn must launch struggle to kick out Blairites and fight for socialist policies

Socialist Party news and analysis

Universal Credit out - Tories out!

Mass pressure wins light sentence for 'Stansted 15'

To end climate change we need to fight for socialist change!

Marx memorial attack shows socialist ideas are on the rise

Them & us

International socialist news and analysis

France: striking workers confront Macron as historic gilets jaunes movement approaches "Act XIV"

Socialist Party feature

Ten years since Lindsey strike: when militant action stopped the 'race to the bottom'

Workplace news and analysis

Victory to Birmingham bin workers

Heroic RMT guards beat back Northern rail in fight against dangerous driver-only operation

Fight for a socialist-led PCS - fight to win the national pay campaign

Glasgow: nationalise the threatened 'Caley' railway depot

Leicester college workers refuse to accept cut in terms and conditions

Enfield: striking against academisation - fighting for a no-cuts budget

Workplace and union news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Southampton: Labour plans 15m cuts - vote Socialist in Coxford by-election

Newham: women's refuge funds halved - Labour must use the 500m reserves

Arrest Brigadier Fernando - defend the right to protest

Why I joined: "why is their life so different from mine?"

New pamphlet: 1919 - Red Flag over the Clyde

Celebrating Robert Burns 1759-1796

'Shac' campaign fights for housing

300 turn out for Corbyn in Nottingham marginal

Liverpool: 200 march to commemorate Robert Tressell

'Spot' conference opposes authoritarianism in Turkey


'Green Book' film: a timely reminder of racism in the USA

'Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor': comedy and tragedy judiciously mixed

The Socialist inbox


Home   |   The Socialist 13 February 2019   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:

Lindsey Oil Refinery:

triangleHull: Construction workers' walkout forces employer to back down

triangleSocialist Party member Janet Gibson advertising NSSN conference at a protest of steel construction workers outside a Siemans factory in Lincoln (click for report)

triangleTrade unions: myths of EU 'Remain' campaign

triangleConstruction workers stop work to protest at the undermining of jobs and pay

triangleWorkers' Memorial Day: strike for safety


triangleDVLA: Workers ballot on further strike action

triangle60 steelworks scaffs march in second week of all-out strike

triangleOaks Park pickets vote for more strikes to defeat bullies

triangleSolidarity Appeal: Support the Berlin hospital strike


triangleLibya - ten years after Gaddafi's overthrow

triangleWill Biden's 'green' agenda avert an impending climate change catastrophe?

triangleThe Socialist Inbox


triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Lessons of the 2009 Lindsey Refinery strike

triangleSpied on by the state and bosses


triangleStop press: Sparks walk out


triangleCovid 'vaccine wars' underline failure of capitalist nation states to deal with the global pandemic

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Cynical Johnson government no friend of workers



Workers need a pay rise



Fight for the pay rise we deserve



News in brief



Social care funding needed now


Climate change

Build a mass working-class climate movement with socialist policies



Socialism 2021 event: 19-21 November 2021


Universal Credit

Tories plunge millions further into poverty



Sarah Everard trial reveals police abuse of power



Bakers' union disaffiliates from Labour



Railway bosses cook the books in another capitalist market failure


Climate change

Capitalist climate hypocrisy



Pay NHS and care staff to address worker shortages



Capitalism's economic instability in the 'new normal'



Pandora leaks put capitalism in the dock

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021