3 February 2009 | Paul Snell
Total UK, owner of the Lindsey oil refinery in North Lincolnshire, has attempted to reassure workers it does not discriminate against British firms when awarding contracts.
A wildcat strike at the refinery that began last week continues and has spread to other sites as workers protest the use of foreign labour and offer their support. Talks between moderation service ACAS, union leaders, main contractor Jacobs and Total will begin today with the hope of resolving the dispute.
The argument began when US engineering firm Jacobs, one of Total's contractors, awarded a subcontract to Italian company IREM who provided their own employees. Total said five UK and two foreign companies responded to the tender.
The company told supplymanagement.com it was committed to a fair, competitive and rigorous tender process. "Where sub-contracts are let, firms from both within the UK and elsewhere in the EU can bid for the work. Where we sub-contract, we do so on a fair and non-discriminatory basis; and the wage rates are the same as other equivalent jobs on the site."
It added the company would work with its subcontractors to make sure British contractors were considered for work "in the same way as anyone else".
"On this occasion IREM was selected through a fair and competitive tender process as the most appropriate company to complete this work. We will continue to put contracts out to tender in the future and we are confident we will award further contracts to UK companies."
Bob Emerson, the company's HR manager, told the BBC's Today programme the tender process was "very open", but the workforce was only one thing for the firm to consider.
"We need to look at safety, we need to look at quality, we need to look at if can they complete the work for us on time and we have to look at whether they are going to be competitive. On this one occasion IREM was chosen. We can demonstrate many times over the past 40 years that other international companies have been chosen, including UK firms," he said.