That's bound to happen if you hire an overseas subbie – so don't blame the Italian firm in the Lindsey dispute for using its own workers; Total should have thought this through
Who can blame the lads at Total's Lindsey oil refinery for fretting about their future? Who isn't? Nor can you really knock protesting construction folk at Sellafield or Fiddlers Ferry power plants, or on that building site down the road from you. And if you scratched below the surface of this affair, I bet whatever you like that the blokes aren't having a go at fellow workers – whether from Italy, Portugal or Poland. These British workers just want work. To blame the lads from overseas misses the mark.
What's happening here is ever so ordinary. Total's main contract went to an American firm, Jacobs. (Well, that's the way of things.) The US firm then sublets a key parcel to an Italian subcontractor, Irem. And here is the crunch: that firm has its own blokes to do the actual work on site. It's quite true that the Italian subcontractor won't take on our lads. But it's nothing to do with “not taking on British workers” because they are British; that's just spin. The Italian firm doesn't want any workers from Britain or any other country because it already has its own.
It's quite true that the Italian subcontractor won't take on our lads. But it's nothing to do with not taking on British workers because they are British; that's just spin
What has happened here is hardly any different from a UK subcontractor having won the work instead of the Italian firm. Let me tell you the difference: it's called loss of chance. When a UK subcontractor wins the work, that firm will be on the lookout for the local lads who do that sort of construction work. And those lads will swap from one firm to another. There is a real chance that, no matter which company is awarded the subcontract work, the same blokes will actually be employed on site come the day that the new subcontract starts.
That is not what happens when a non-local outfit wins the work. I bet you that the Italian firm is an international outfit with its own family of workers. They travel where Irem goes. The British lads do similarly, only they follow the work instead. They stand a sporting chance of being taken on no matter who the British subcontractor happens to be.
What has happened here is hardly any different from a UK subcontractor having won the work instead. Let me tell you the difference: it's called loss of chance
The real answer is in the hands of Total. Placing a £200m contract isn't just a question of price. Commercial reasoning in who wins the work is much wider than that. Total will reflect on the benefits of long-term local - yes, local - relationships. Local firms form a bond. The lads begin to look after Total, and vice versa. No, I am not cutting out overseas trading, or talking protectionism (what ever that means). I am just reminding myself (and Total) that buying local is about working and developing a community.
Come on, Total – and you other big boys – use your loaf, not the price.