Britain: Meeting on Lindsey oil refinery dispute – Workers strike back

Fighting trade union leadership needed

Around 200 people attended a joint meeting in London on 13 February, organised by the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) and Respect, to discuss the lessons of the Lindsey oil refinery strike. For a meeting organised at short notice on a Friday night, it was an excellent turnout and an inspiration for those attending.

Keith Gibson addresses meeting

Keith Gibson, a leader of the Lindsey strike explained the mood of the workforce now: "I believe and the workforce believes this was a fantastic victory. It was a historic moment for working people.

"This dispute, if nothing else, has shown quite clearly that workers, if they believe in something strongly, will sweep all the anti-trade union legislation aside like confetti. The workers want to defend the national agreement – what we have gained over 20 years of struggle."

Class agenda

"We turned this dispute from where the media wanted to go – looking at a racist agenda – to what we put forward, through discussions with other Socialist Party members – a clear class agenda. It got a fantastic echo. Workers understood that the demands we were putting forward were on class issues.

"Yet the full-time trade union officials used the anti-trade union legislation as an excuse not to support workers in action. They fear the sequestration of the unions’ funds.

"But I believe that the union officials have already been sequestrated, of the ideas of struggle, of the ideas of defending working class people."

He finished his speech with a rousing call to build on the victory at Lindsey: "We have to build a fighting leadership on a local and national level. We have to build organisations locally, nationally and internationally which can defeat this rotten system that deprives us of our standard of living."

Jerry Hicks, who is standing in the general secretary election in the Amicus section of the union Unite, as the left candidate, then gave his resounding support for the strike.

"This volcano has been rumbling on for years as the EU Posted Workers Directive. This is designed to reduce the rights of workers and to increase the profits of the bosses. …Yet our union leadership prevaricated and did nothing, offered no hope."

He pointed out that Unite has given £11 million to the Labour Party since 2005 and got little in return.

He explained the success of his election campaign: "I am pleased with the welcome we get from ordinary members. Our platform – the repeal of all anti-union laws, public ownership, opposition to privatisation, against nuclear power, in favour of green energy, calling for public works programmes – is cutting with the grain."

Most speakers from the floor backed up Keith and Jerry’s points and the inspiring concluding speeches left the audience even more determined to build fighting trade unions and to struggle to change society.

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February 2009