Lindsey Oil Refinery workers strike, photo Sean Figg

Lindsey Oil Refinery construction workers strike, photo Sean Figg   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Construction workers have been protesting for two weeks outside the Uskmouth power station site near Newport. This is because the contractor Siemens is refusing to give many unemployed local construction workers work on the site, preferring instead to bus workers in from abroad to breach union (NAECI) agreements.

Mike John, Newport Socialist Party

The company’s claim that 80% of employees on the site are British and Irish has been scoffed at by the workers. They know that over half the skilled trades jobs have been filled with workers from abroad to undermine union organisation.

The protests were organised at a meeting of construction workers from all over the country in Newport in mid August to discuss the situation at Uskmouth.

The mood was one of anger that Siemens was not adhering to the Blue Book agreement that the unions had fought for over many years and a major concern was health and safety at the plant.

Local New Labour MP Jessica Morden was at the meeting. I asked her if she would join the call for an end to the European directive on the free movement of labour, a law designed so that companies like Siemens could import cheap labour. She refused, without explaining why. There also seems to be a lack of leadership coming from the top of the union. Like at the Lindsey oil refinery it is left up to the rank and file to fight this battle alone.

Around 70 unemployed construction workers attended the first protest on 17 August, and Socialist Party members from Cardiff and Newport went down to give practical support.

The mood was one of workers’ solidarity, as one worker said: “We are not against Polish workers, we are against those above them”. A steward reported that when he was working in Plymouth, Polish workers went on strike with British workers and joined the union because they found out that the company was exploiting them. The union then won them improved pay and conditions.

A solidarity appeal in Polish, Hungarian and German has been produced by Socialist Party members for workers to join the union and support the campaign of British and Irish construction workers for jobs on the site.

Subsequent protests have been smaller but the anger has not dissipated. Workers are gearing up for a big protest on 7 September, when workers from all over the country will be rallying at Uskmouth.

This day of protest must be built for to show Siemens and all the other construction contractors that this attack on union organisation will be resisted and workers will force them to adhere to the NAECI agreements.

Socialist Party members are building for solidarity from other local union branches and trades councils for the 7 September protest.