MORE than 100 contractors walked out at Hartlepool Power Station as part of a national dispute over the use of foreign workers.
The dispute was sparked by plans to give hundreds of jobs to Italian and Eastern European workers in Lincolnshire.
Moves to bring in up to 400 Italian and Portuguese contractors to work on a 200m plant at the Lindsey Oil Refinery sparked the bitter protests which have escalated since midweek.
Across the country almost 1,700 staff downed tools as a series of wildcat strikes gathered pace.
Supporting their colleagues were contractors at Hartlepool Power Station who walked out mid-morning yesterday and expect to continue their action early on Monday morning when their shifts would normally resume.
Between 100 and 150 workers stood at the gates of the site with support from passing cars and lorries who tooted their horns, but the strike action did not cause any serious disruption to the day-to-day running of the station.
The disgruntled contractors maintain there is no problem working in unison with foreign workers but that British people should be given first chance of employment.
Jamie Yarker, a 31-year-old scaffolder from Billingham, who has worked at the power station for five years, said: "There are lots of very experienced people out of work who could fill any vacancies and they should be given first shout.
"We hope that the powers-that-be will sit up and take notice of this."
Fellow contractor David Kerr, 49, a thermal insulation engineer, from Newcastle, said: "This is in protest about foreign workers getting jobs when there are enough skilled workers in this country to fill them.
"It is a show of support for lads at other sites across the country.
"The lads have no problems working with foreign lads it's just that British workers should be given first shout at the jobs."
Hundreds of workers at ICI Wilton, near Redcar, on Teesside, also staged a walkout and police confirmed that action at both sites had been peaceful.