Engineering construction workers locked out from their jobs at the Saltend chemicals plant near Hull, Yorkshire, looked set to escalate their battle this week.
Bosses have locked out 431 workers at the site since 14 March.
They held an official picket at the Saltend site for the first time on Monday of this week, after the Unite and GMB unions rowed in to support them. They had previously held unofficial pickets.
As Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, put it, “If it looks like an attack on workers’ rights and it smells like an attack on workers’ rights then it most certainly is an attack on workers’ rights.”
The Saltend site is the second biggest construction site in Britain after the Olympics. A huge company, Vivergo Fuels, runs it. BP, British Sugar and DuPont own it.
Vivergo cancelled a contract with Redhall Engineering Solutions, the subcontractor that had employed the 431 workers.
But instead of transferring them to a new contractor, as is the norm, bosses locked them out. The fact that bosses offered workers a bribe to go away last week, for the second time, shows they are rattled by their response.
Workers for other contractors who had been on paid leave were supposed to return to work this week—but they remained out in support of those locked out.
Workers from Interserve Engineering Services also refused to cross the picket line.
The locked out workers have called for concrete solidarity in their support.
The potential for that solidarity is clear. For instance, workers at West Burton power station have already raised £12,000 for the hardship fund for the locked out workers.
If bosses get away with these sackings it will be a blow to workers’ rights everywhere.
The subcontracting system means there will be constant attempts by bosses to set worker against worker, trade against trade, site against site.
In contrast, militant and unofficial action on construction sites terrifies the employers.
Make donations out to Saltend Hardship Fund and send to 1 Manby Road, Scunthorpe, DN17 2LA