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Latest update : 2009-06-19

Almost 900 construction workers employed by French energy giant Total were sacked on Thursday, after the workers staged an unofficial strike over 51 redundancies at the plant in eastern England.

REUTERS - Almost 900 striking construction workers at a Total oil refinery in eastern England were sacked late on Thursday after the unofficial walkout passed the one-week mark, the French energy company said.


The strike - which Total says breaches labour laws - has prompted sympathy walkouts by contractors at British power stations. Neither oil refining at the 223,000 barrels-a-day plant nor electricity generation elsewhere has been affected.


New construction at the Lindsey refinery had employed between 600 and 1,200 contractors, depending on its progress, and the strike broke out in protest at some workers being made redundant while others were being hired for a subsequent phase.


"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 any workers who wished to continue on the project had to reapply for their jobs by Monday. Some 150 protesters were demostrating outside the plant earlier on Thursday, down from 350 on Tuesday, Total said.


The dispute began when Total wrote to 65 workers to tell them the project they were working on was nearing completion, putting their jobs in doubt.


It has told 51 of them they will be made redundant as their parts of the desulphurisation unit are finished over the next few months, with the whole project expected to be completed at the end of this year, the spokesman said.


Total says it cannot begin talks with union officials until the workforce returns to work.


The latest strikes echo more widespread protests in early February over the use of foreign workers at the same refinery, with many of the same power plant projects involved.


As in February, contractor walkouts at Scottish and Southern Energy's Fiddler's Ferry power station, RWE npower's Aberthaw, E.ON UK's Ratcliffe, EDF Energy's West Burton and the Drax power plant have had no impact on operations, the companies said.


"Some contractors haven't turned up in support of their fellow workers," a spokeswoman for Drax in Yorkshire said.


"It will not affect power generation."


A spokesman for EDF said a "handful" of contractors had failed to show up for work at West Burton on Thursday, while a spokeswoman for RWE power said contract workers who left its Aberthaw coal fired power plant on Wednesday in support of workers at Lindsey returned to work the next morning.

Date created : 2009-06-19