The oil dispute: a middle way is needed


The dispute at East Lindsay Oil refinery continues, unfortunately, after workers have rejected a deal brokered by ACAS.

All of the coverage of the dispute has presented the issue as a straight choice between two options: first, the “government” option, of upholding the free movement of labour and leaving British workers on the side; or second, the “workers” option, of keeping out foreign workers in order to keep British Jobs with British Workers (to coin a phrase).

This puts pro-European socialists in a difficult place: how can we do right by our workers, keeping them in jobs at a time of great hardship, and square that with ensuring that the EU is able to function as a single labour market?

Actually, the choice put here is a false one. I entirely sympathize with the workers at East Lindsay. However, they have unfortunately misdiagnosed their problem: although it may appear so on the face of it, the system of labour market freedom isn’t causing their jobs to be lost (in fact, it brings great benefits to a huge bulk of British workers and consumers).

However, I can see why they think that – and this is where there is a place for us to make a critique. Whilst we must uphold the free movement of labour in Europe, we must also move to ensure that this does not lead to a “levelling down” of workers’ rights, pay and conditions, in which British workers are forced to either bargain down, or lose out to cheaper labour elsewhere.

This year sees European elections across the 27 member states. I would like to see a robust response from Labour and the rest of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, rejecting the false choice between neo-liberalism and labour-market protectionism, and instead proposing that protection be given to workers across the Union on an equal basis, truly levelling the playing field and ensuring that British workers don’t lose out.



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One Response to “The oil dispute: a middle way is needed”

  1. A Blogging Pick’n’Mix « Frank Owen’s Paintbrush Says:

    […] Frank Owen’s Paintbrush Socialism, Practicality, Wisdom and Curry in perfect unity « The oil dispute: a middle way is needed […]

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