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January 30, 2009



This is nonsense, they are striking because it puts these companies on notice that if they employ foreign contractors they will have trouble, so pressuring them to employ locals. Whatever the companies say this will at the margin effect future contracts. Note that workers are striking against all the refinery companies not just the one that has written this contract.

How would they strike against 'Bankers'? I am sure the CEO of LLoydsTSB could care less if workers from Total/Shell/etc strike. Even if bankers did change there behaviour in some way any benefits to oil refinery workers are going to be very defuse.

They are striking because they believe it is in their best interests - and I don't really see how they are wrong about that.


What he said. Also, you're assuming your conclusion here - "I guess, they’d be quite tolerant of men from Hull or Grimsby doing the jobs". On the contrary, I think if the company did a cut-rate deal with some agency in Hull or Grimsby and bussed the entire workforce in, there'd be very much the same level of resistance in Immingham - it just wouldn't generalise so well to other sites.

Bob B

Old habits and nostalgia die hard.

In the 1940s after WW2, the British ship building industry had a quarter of the world market but ancients, like myself, will doubtless recall listening to regular news bulletins about almost weekly wildcat strikes over skill demarcation disputes between unions. The outcome was that the British ship building industry went down the drain despite massive dollops of state aids over decades.

In key industries in the 1970s, productivity went done on trend and the government was subsidising state-owned British Steel to the tune of £1 million/day at the prices of those times.


"White working-class pupils are the lowest-achieving group in English schools because they have low aspirations and do not do their homework, an official study shows."

Bring back the old days?

Andrew Duffin

Surely the answer is that you can see the people doing the job you would like to do yourself, but you can't see or touch bankers?

They are on a hiding to nothing by the way. These "foreign" workers are fully-fledged EU citizens and have every right to live and work in the UK if they wish.

The European Courts will enforce this right, if the dispute reaches them.

I wonder if these strikers realise they are enjoying the benefits of EU membership?


"the damage that bankers have done to the economy"

What would you guess, on net, the long run gain or loss to the economy, arising from the capitalist financial sector is? I'm not looking for a number .. large/small positive/negative?

Bob B

"These 'foreign' workers are fully-fledged EU citizens and have every right to live and work in the UK if they wish."

Quite so and British workers would surely protest if blocked from working in other EU member coutries - remember that popular TV series in the early 1990s: Aufedersein Pet?

Could these news reports from several years ago be among the reasons mainland European companies are reluctant to employ British workers?

"Up to 12 million working UK adults have the literacy skills expected of a primary school child, the Public Accounts Committee says. . . The report says there are up 12 million people holding down jobs with literacy skills and up to 16 million with numeracy skills at the level expected of children leaving primary school." [January 2006]

"A £2bn scheme to improve basic skills among adults has been called a 'depressing failure' by education inspectors." [December 2005]


Andy, Phil - I didn't intend to give the impression that the strikes are solely motivated by antipathy to foreign workers; I apologise if my clumsy phraseology suggested otherwise.
I'm only discussing here the anti-foreigner element of the dispute, which is not the whole story.

passer by

Sure what the great British worker wants is cash to buy stuff from china so the Chinese can send it back and lend it back to us at artificially low interest rates so we can buy more stuff from the mercantilist Chinese...(sorry for the ever so obvious racism.)

Sort of like the opium wars in reverse?


Andy makes a correct point. Striking against bankers is not possible.

This is one of the "collective action problems". Each person does not have sufficient interest to campaign against bankers (or more to the point central bankers). They do though have sufficient interest to campaign against local things that affect them.

It is because of exactly the same collective action problem that capitalist markets don't generally become cartels. Each business in the cartel benefits individually if the welch on the agreement.

Ideology certainly does sustain injustice too. But it not necessarily generated by those wishing to sustain injustice. For example, in the cities of the North a working class person who does well for himself is considered a traitor and ostracized. This socialist ideology quite obviously damages the working class themselves.


Surely the question is, "Why are there no strikes against the politians who have caused this mess?"

Bob B

"What would you guess, on net, the long run gain or loss to the economy, arising from the capitalist financial sector is? I'm not looking for a number .. large/small positive/negative?"

Until the credit crunch and the bank bailouts came along, net fiscal contributions to the national exchequer from London and South East region resident taxpayers have been bank rolling the rest of Britain - try this high-powered study to see why:

For a map showing the extent of fiscal regional subsidies and regional net exchequer contributions, try:

Bob B

As for the contribution of the main market sectors to Gross Value Added generated in Britain:

"An analysis of the eleven broad industrial sectors shows that in 2006, the financial intermediation and other business services sector provided the largest contribution (31.0 per cent) to gross valued added at current basic prices, at £364.7 billion out of a total of £1,177.2 billion. The distribution and hotels sector contributed 14.4 per cent, the manufacturing sector accounted for 13.0 per cent and the education, health and social work
sector 12.8 per cent." [ONS Blue Book 2008, chp.2]

Because financial and business services are mainly concentrated in Britain:

"London will be the UK region worst hit by the recession, a report has said.

"A study by the Centre for Economics and Business (CEBR) said the capital would suffer most because of its reliance on financial and business services.

"These sectors accounted for 47% of economic output in London in 2008 but the same areas are expected to perform poorly during the downturn."


a) It's true, you can't "strike" against bank, for obvious reasons. But you can demonstrate or campaign against them. During the last decade the movements that did so were branded 'greebos', 'anarchists', 'crusties' and 'no-global tree huggers'. But they were basically saying, perhaps in a language that wasn't he epitome of PR work, what most respected columnists are saying NOW that we are in the midst of a bankers-induced crisis.
Since the Ice Age, collective hysteria has always been channelled against easy targets. And too many people are inherently cowards. Fight against the bankers? No significant backers would stir the fight, and without cheerleaders the masses are positively tame.

b) Chris asks why the anger against foreign workers. Tribal instincts? The tabloids CONSTANTLY (and i mean CONSTANTLY) whipping up anti-immigration issues? The results of years of Little Britainism?

Because, what infuriates me the most is...reading the Talibani of the free markets today, pointing the finger at the EU as the root cause of the Lindsey oil refinery issue. But the same free-marketeers need to make up their mind and quick.The contradictions are shocking...

Do they want a world (including Europe) where British corporations do practically what they like, or not?
Do they want an EU where 800,000 Brits (I'll say it again, 800,000 Brits) buy homes in Spain putting local services under enormous strain or not? Most of those Spain-based Brits are Daily Mail readers, and no, I'm not generalising.

You can't have the cake and eat it. And if you want the freedom to be sick in Benidorm town centre all year round or the freedom or having a purpose-built dodgy villa outside Marbella, then you may have to put up with EU workers spending 6 months on a contract in England.

The only thing I hope is that the tabloid editors and politicians have an impetus of humanity and don't start riding the gravy train of anti-foreign rhetoric. Like Chris correctly points out, that could be potentially explosive in moments like this.

Bob B

Any comments on the large numbers of secondary schools in Kingston-upon-Hull and North East Lincolnshire on this list of the worst 470 schools in England which, in 2008, fell below the government's "floor target" of 30% of pupils achieving the equivalent of five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and maths?

An illuminating thought in the press for the week:

"Bankers in truth have been revealed as no more talented than the rest of us, except in lining their own pockets."


"Bankers in truth have been revealed as no more talented than the rest of us, except in lining their own pockets."
I've never doubted it.


"I've never doubted it."

What did you do about it?

Bob B

"What did you do about it?"

Never mind hitting on dearime, try instead these illuminating reflections by Paul Mason - the economics editor of BBC2 Newsnight - on the looming systemic risks in Britain's financial services markets and deregulation:

But who kept calling for more and more deregulation?


The Brits in Spain are a business for the Spanish. The brits have taken their wealth from the UK and spent it in Spain, with the willing help of the Spanish.
Here in the UK, how can it be cheaper to bring a large group of workers from another country than to employ local labour? If it is cheaper and not a rigged market, serious questions should be asked. One of which is the educational abilties of UK state educationed work force. Maybe the local unionised labour is just not good enough?

Bob B

"One of which is the educational abilties of UK state educationed work force."

Some state schools - "maintained schools", in the official jargon - provide a better schooling than most private - or non-maintained - schools. From a recent report in The Times for 15 January 2009:

"Grammar school pupils outperformed their privately educated counterparts at A level by a record margin last summer, piling more pressure on the beleaguered fee-paying sector." [link available]

Overall, less than 7% of pupils at school in Britain go to non-maintained schools. There are no non-maintained schools in the London borough where I live but the borough regularly tops the league table of local education authorities for England. Two schools within walking distance achieved better A-level results than Eton in the latest league tables.

However, official statistics report that labour productivity in Britain is low in comparisons with the other G7 economies:

"According to the latest available figures, Britain was ranked 14th in a global skills league table."


"But they raise another question: why are there strikes against migrant workers when there have been no such strikes against the damage that bankers have done to the economy?"

"Surely the question is, "Why are there no strikes against the politians who have caused this mess?""

Actually there has been a general strike in France, due to the mass feeling that the bankers have been bailed out, leaving the ordinary people to fend for themselves (ie. lose their jobs and deal with it) - see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/29/france-general-strike-global-recession.

Although to be truly accurate it has been aimed more at the government than the bankers themselves.

David Heigham

Any set of workers employed to work highly capital intensive plant can extract a rent because interruptions to output are so expensive. British refinery workers have also learnt that their power to interrupt supply gives then political leverage. The strike is about protecting the rent they now have; any other sloganeering is just a smokescreen.

The National Union of Mineworkers gave a demonstration of the practical limits to the rents that can be extracted.


Ron B: "Here in the UK, how can it be cheaper to bring a large group of workers from another country than to employ local labour?"

The construction contract in Lincolnshire was signed before the economic collapse at a time when UK construction workers were in demand. The winning bidder constructed a proposal using imported labour (to reduce costs) which met the other criteria of the tender. UK labour costs in construction may have fallen post contract, but we should assume that the winning bidder has already committed to using imported workers.

Current: "For example, in the cities of the North a working class person who does well for himself is considered a traitor and ostracized."

A point which is clearly demonstrated by the number of soccer players without a wife or girlfriend. But I can make two sensible further points.

1. Education is not respected in some communities. It is fine to become rich from sporting achievement or commerce, but don't expect respect when your novel is published and you are still living on the (UK) bread line. Something to discuss another time.

2. Human beings are designed by genetics to work with people like them. It is why family companies and farms have prospered for so long. Human beings operate on a preference scheme: me > family > friends > village > wider geographical region > nation. Any scenario that challenges the preference order may create a dispute. Shakespeare didn't do genetics at school but he understood relationships.

UK schools proclaim to provide a "multicultural" education which I happily acknowledge for consequential reductions in racism. Multiculturalism needs to be about a bit more: gay people, transgendered people, geeks, heterosexual male English Language and Literature students, different classes, different castes, and Johnny EU Foreigner.

Bob B

It usually refreshes perspectives to reread George Orwell:

"There is no doubt about the Englishman's inbred conviction that those who live to the south of him are his inferiors; even our foreign policy is governed by it to some extent. . . When nationalism first became a religion, the English looked at the map, and, noticing that their island lay very high in the Northern Hemisphere, evolved the pleasing theory that the further north you live the more virtuous you become. . . There is nevertheless a real difference between North and South, and there is at least a tinge of truth in that picture of Southern England as one enormous Brighton inhabited by lounge-lizards."

Just reflect on the contribution that Scottish bankers have made to our well-being and security . . .

E. Fernandes

Good morning. I'm Portuguese. In times of crisis i believe it to be normal a certain level of insatisfaction directed to foreign workers... specially when there's no "real" responsibles for this crisis situation. In Portugal, has in other countries, there's also a certain strain directed to foreign workers. Staying with this logic it seems only obvious to me that we should campaign against "foreign" industries, that produce products abroad in labour conditions that are very different from European one's... We should think further than our next door neighbour. Just a thought...Best of wishes. Freedom Always.

Andrew Duffin

Claude - as a matter of fact, I don't want "the freedom to be sick in Benidorm town centre all year round or the freedom of having a purpose-built dodgy villa outside Marbella". And I don't mind in the least the fact that the Italians and/or the Portuguese can win contracts in the UK; I am quite happy to compete on my own merits and so should our workers be.

My point was that those (such as the Labour movement) who are so happy to be pre-EU when it's a stick to beat the Tories over the head, should perhaps realise that it won't always work in their favour, and that when it doesn't and they don't like it, they will find out too late that they've given away the power to change anything or manage the affairs of the country they way they might like.


"I guess, they’d be quite tolerant of men from Hull or Grimsby doing the jobs."

Assumes facts not in evidence.

More to the point, how would you go about striking against bankers? "Nobody can get credit to buy a Landy, so...we're going to shut down Solihull and Castle Bromwich until the bastard bankers get the message and lend our customers some money!"

Can anyone see the flaw here?


It doesn't make too much sense for me to require a foreign company to hire only British people.


Claude - congratulations on your passionate post (Jan30 0959). Especially liked the ref to 'free-market Talibani' and your fingering of the expat Daily Mail reader syndrome.

rolex datejust

And a lot of it reflects a switch from bank deposits to securities; foreigners “other investments” in the UK, http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

United Gold Direct

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