Forthcoming in Antipode 47(1), and available online now, British Jobs for British Workers? Negotiating Work, Nation, and Globalisation through the Lindsey Oil Refinery Disputes by Anthony Ince, David Featherstone, Andrew Cumbers, Danny MacKinnon and Kendra Strauss explores the relationships between labour organising, globalisation and national identity through an engagement with the 2009 Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes. Some strikers adopted the controversial slogan “British Jobs for British Workers” in response to employers’ attempts to undercut existing wages and conditions with a new migrant workforce; this led to accusations of xenophobia.
The paper’s authors make three inter-related arguments: first, they contend that it is necessary to interrogate the spatialised power relations generated through particular forms of labour agency enacted in relation to globalising processes; second, since these responses can be politically ambiguous, success in territorially based disputes does not always equate with broader (transnational) class agency; and third, relevant to the project of labour geography, they propose that labour scholars and activists be more attuned to the mundane ambiguities in labour agency, and the subsequent need to frame local action within a broader relational politics of global labour solidarity.
We asked Anthony and colleagues to reflect on their paper’s implications for radical theory and practice, and their thoughtful response makes salutary reading, especially in the wake of the recent European elections: ‘the 2009 Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes illustrated how workplace grievances can foster exclusions between workers of different nationalities. We identify three key practical implications. First, the way xenophobic elements in politics and media quickly appropriated one of the strike’s slogans – “British jobs for British workers” – provides a cautionary tale for workers and unions in developing global labour solidarity. Articulations of demands should be mindful of the intersections of nation and class in order to foster grassroots global solidarities. Second, mismatching state accreditation systems produced differential experiences and exacerbated antagonisms between workers of different nationalities. It is therefore essential that labour movements recognise these differential processes and seek possible solutions to them. Finally, despite the UK’s obstructive legislative landscape, we argue that it is still possible for workers to undertake self-organised, “unlawful” action. The Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes thus indicate how self-managed struggles can be fraught, but potentially very empowering.’
Don’t miss Anthony, David, Andrew, Danny and Kendra’s recent essay in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (Progressive Localism and the Construction of Political Alternatives), and read more of their work in Antipode:
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Antipode 47(1) will be out at the end of this year, and it’s looking good already…
The 2013 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture
New Materialisms and Neoliberal Natures
Evangelia Apostolopoulou and William M. Adams
Escape into the City: Everyday Practices of Commoning and the Production of Urban Space in Dublin
Michael Byrne and Patrick Bresnihan
Connor Joseph Cavanagh and David Himmelfarb
Dia Da Costa
Industrial District and the Multiplication of Labour: The Chinese Apparel Industry in Prato, Italy
Katharine N. Rankin and Heather McLean
Janet Siltanen, Fran Klodawsky and Caroline Andrew