>A series of strikes in Britain revolving around a key EU internal market law have taken on a European dimension as a group of leftist MEPs take up the protesters' cause.
>Their move comes as Britain has been struck by a series of strikes after Total, in charge of the Lindsey refinery in north-east England, hired an Italian company to carry out a temporary project.
The Italian firm plans to use Italian and Portuguese workers for the job, something it is entitled to do under the EU's posted workers directive, which allows foreign companies to use its workers so long as they are hired under the same conditions as local workers.
However, left-wing politicians and trade unions say the law is open to abuse as companies, while obliged to pay the minimum wage, do not have to abide by local collective agreements.
>British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday condemned the nationwide strikes. "That's not the right thing to do," Brown told BBC television. "It's not defensible." The UK government has asked an independent mediator to look into whether skilled British workers were unfairly debarred from contract work at a refinery in eastern England owned by France's Total.
>The European Commission yesterday (2 February) "strongly backed" UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in condemning a wave of strikes in Britain over the use of foreign workers, staged across a dozen oil refineries, gas terminals and power stations.
>PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen today warned that workers would turn against the European Union unless it shows that it is on the side of jobs and workers rights.
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said “The strikes in the UK are just the latest example of growing frustration and fear among workers. Workers are beginning to question the freedom of movement because the European Commission has allowed it to be used to undermine wages and working conditions. The European Commission has done nothing to stop freedom of movement of workers from being exploited to drive down wages, despite repeated warnings. Now they are seeing the results.”
“The freedom of movement of workers – which ought to benefit workers – and indeed does benefit workers in many cases – is becoming unpopular because of the laissez-faire attitude of this right-wing European Commission. The only people who are happy about this situation are the euro-skeptics.”
“There is an easy solution - workers should be employed at the agreed wage levels negotiated between trade unions and employers in the country of work. It’s a simple, effective and everyday practice. It was a huge mistake to let anyone undermine this fundamental principle. It was asking for trouble and is now causing trouble.”
“I strongly support freedom of movement of workers because it has always been considered something that benefits workers and employers alike. We must make sure that this is the case in practice.”