Law does not say: priority for foreigns

THE strike at Lindsey Oil refinery and the supporting strikes that took place around the country have been major news over the past week. While it's good to hear that a deal has now been reached which will see 102 new jobs created for British workers, the issue behind the strike has not gone away.

Richard Howitt MEP

THE strike at Lindsey Oil refinery and the supporting strikes that took place around the country have been major news over the past week. While it's good to hear that a deal has now been reached which will see 102 new jobs created for British workers, the issue behind the strike has not gone away.

It's important to remember the strike wasn't against foreign workers but against companies who would seek to deliberately undercut British worker's jobs by bringing in cheaper labour from elsewhere in Europe.

There is a European law which seeks to avoid such under-cutting but two European Court judgements have skewed the law in such a way that unscrupulous employers have found a loop-hole which enables them to pay workers lower rates and force them to have poorer conditions than local staff.


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We need to make the law in Europe clearer, so that there is no room for interpretation from the judges and that workers pay and conditions can not be undercut by employers seeking cheaper labour from elsewhere.

In these financially difficult times there is often animosity towards foreign workers as people feel they have taken British jobs. However, foreign labour has helped to boost the economy in Essex and Suffolk, and the right answer is to promote opportunities for everyone.

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The changes I, and my Labour colleagues, are seeking in European law will guarantee that all employees from wherever they are recruited are given equal and fair treatment in the workplace.

Last week, as I visited a European-funded project helping foreign workers to integrate in our local community in Ipswich, it reminded me of the positive need to promote community relations - or others will succeed in doing exactly the opposite.

My MEP colleague local to the refinery told me how far right British National Party members had sought to infiltrate the protest, but thankfully were turned away by those genuinely affected in the dispute.

I am sad to say that although every mainstream political party rejects their politics of hate and division, the BNP will try to exploit a low turnout and the proportional system in use for the European elections to seek to get themselves elected.

Finally, on a lighter note, I can't write this letter without at least a closing remark about the amazing snowfall we've just had. It took me over 24 hours to get to Strasbourg last week and I was beginning to think that I might have to consult with the MEPs from Northern Sweden, who are in fact inside the Arctic Circle, for their advice on how to deal with the snow!

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