Protests in Lincolnshire recently by British workers irate over jobs there going to Italian and Portuguese ones raise some interesting issues.
Total, the French oil company had caused to be brought in about 300 construction workers from those two EU countries to carry out building projects on its huge £200 million Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire. An Italian concern had won the contract and brought in its own workers, housing them in large barges built for such a purpose. This caused locals who felt themselves qualified but spurned to protest.
These protests led to workers across the region and country walking off their jobs in solidarity with the protesting workers. Many of them held up placards with the legend ‘British Jobs for British Workers’. This was from a 2007 speech given by Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister.
The first issue this raises is why there is not a similar outcry over oil- rig jobs in Nigeria or other oil-producing countries in Africa, going to foreign workers shipped in to the country as easily as the crude is shipped out. And these foreign workers are never housed in grey barges, but in palatial houses in grand compounds resembling nothing else in those countries but presidential villas.
The second issue, of course, is why the British premier would include in his speech a slogan he knows is not only disingenuous, but unlawful, given his country’s membership of the EU, and that bloc’s rules guaranteeing the free movement of goods and workers between EU countries.
All of which demonstrates that all over the world, oil companies act with impunity and disregard for local sensitivities; and so do politicians.