LONDON(AFP) (AFP) – Strikes spread to energy facilities across the country Friday after almost 650 workers were sacked at an oil refinery after they called a wildcat strike, unions said.

French oil giant Total, the owner of the Lindsey refinery in Lincolnshire said it had sent termination letters to 647 workers, after previous reports said that 900 would be affected.

The dispute deepened when talks to try to resolve the dispute failed to take place.

Staff at several other refineries and gas terminals walked off the job Friday in sympathy with the workers at Lindsey, which was also at the centre of a bitter dispute over the use of foreign labour in January.

The latest dispute started when about 1,200 contract workers called a wildcat strike in protest at the sacking of 51 people working on a construction project at the plant.

The Lindsey workers claimed an agreement not to cut jobs had been broken, but Total disputed this.

The leader of the GMB union, Paul Kenny, said it was an "outrage and a disgrace" that the talks called on Friday did not go ahead.

"Total has not even had the decency or courtesy to turn up at the meeting that they themselves arranged... Bullying and intimidation is not the way to bring about peace," he said.

Total did not comment on the union's claims but in a statement the company said the workforce had been engaged "in an unofficial, illegal walkout since last Thursday, June 11."

It said all current employees would be given the opportunity to re-apply for their jobs with a deadline of 1600 GMT Monday.

A statement added: "The refinery continues to operate as normal and has not been affected by this action."

Workers who joined the wildcat action included those at the Staythorpe power station in Nottinghamshire, Ferrybridge power station in Yorkshire and around 1,100 construction workers building a bio-fuel plant on Teesside.