INEOS Refining is Europe's leading independent crude oil refiner. The plant provides 80% of Scotland's fuel suppli4es and also supplies fuel to parts of northern England and Northern Ireland. The plant provides 70% of the fuel for Scotland's filling stations. The plant accounts for 13.4% of the UK's oil refinery capacity. The Grangemouth complex employs 1,400 permeanent employess on site, with around 1,100 of them union members represented by Unite. The site employs another 2000 contractors and INEOS estimate that another 10,000 jobs rely indirectly on the factory. The closure has come after a row over the suspension of worker and union shop steward Stevie Deans who has worked at the plant for 24 years.
Deans is the branch secretary of Falkirk Labour Party, which earlier this year became embroiled in a dispute with the Labour leadership under Ed Miliband. Deans was accused of signing up Labour Party members without their knowledge, a charge which both the police and the Labour Party investigated and found unsubstantiated. Some of those signed up were, it is alleged, workers at the INEOS plant.
INEOS appears to have seized on the allegations to victimise Deans and provoke a strike. Employed at the plant for 24 years, Deans’ computer was seized and his email has reportedly been trawled for evidence relating to the Falkirk Labour dispute.
Following 16 hours of talks without agreement, Unite officials called off the strike in the face of INEOS’ initiation of a “cold shutdown”. Unite’s Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty insisted that the strike was aborted “to protect this national asset from the scandalous behaviour of its owner.”
Complex chemical plants such as the Grangemouth facility take many days to shut down and start up. The process is dangerous and fraught. By carrying out a “cold shutdown”, INEOS effectively extended to up to one month the period in which the plant is not operating. By contrast, seeking merely a token expression of dissent, Unite sought a “hot standby” which allows production to be resumed much more easily and with far less disruption in production. INEOS, it is now clear, used the shutdown to pressure Grangemouth workers into accepting savage cuts to their conditions.
This further escalation of closure shows the brute careless abandon and shameless opportunism of a company resorting to the worst example of industrial vandalism in living memory to get their own way, who have refused union demands to allow the company accounts to be reviewed by an independent assessor of the union's choosing.
Scottish workers continue to fight against Ineos for their future
Members of IndustriALL Global Union’s UK affiliate Unite the Union at INEOS in Grangemouth, Scotland keeps on resisting the company’s outrageous threats and intimidations.
Towards the end of last week, Ineos shamefully gave workers with a ‘sign or be sacked’ ultimatum to slash jobs, pay and pensions with a deadline by 6pm Monday 21 October. As a response, Unite the Union urged Grangemouth workers not to give in to Ineos’ ‘menacing’ tactics to sign away their rights since this would create a two tier workforce and strip away collective rights. Unite also questioned the legality of the company’s actions and vowed not to allow workers being ‘menaced’ into signing away their livelihoods.
In the meantime, Unite the Union called again on Ineos to abandon its plans to impose detrimental new terms on its Grangemouth workforce and instead to reopen the plant and return to mediated negotiations to secure the site's future. At the Acas talks, Unite committed to conducting no industrial action ballots or industrial action before 31 December 2013.
Unite the Union also called on the anti-avoidance arm of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to investigate the tax affairs of the Ineos Group amid concerns that the company's arrangements ‘obfuscate the true position of Ineos' UK activities’. The formal request followed questions about apparent accounting contradictions in Ineos’ ‘Chemical’ accounts which simultaneously paint both a gloomy and upbeat assessment of the company's finances and future profitability.
The Grangemouth workers and their union, together with local politicians, communities and supporters from across Scotland organized a demonstration and rally on Sunday, October 21 to urge Ineos to get the plant working and drop their tactics of intimidation. The demonstration appealed to the community and the Scottish people to support the Grangemouth workforce, warning that Ineos bosses risk destroying good Scottish jobs as they hold the country to ransom through their irresponsible behaviour.
At the end of the so-called deadline given by INEOS, 665, over 65 per cent (out of 80 per cent of the workforce represented by Unite) have rejected the company’s cynical attempt to intimidate the workforce. Unite the Union then urged the company back to ACAS talks since the resounding rejection of the company’s cynical blackmail sent a clear message to INEOS.
Along with this, INEOS has contracted a PR firm which advertises itself as having “extensive experience of dealing with crisis situations including industrial disputes, fatal accidents, profit warnings, child labour, product failures, customer service issues, redundancies and restructuring”. The firm has been running what the Unite union described as a `campaign of fear' designed to terrify the 1,400 strong workforce into believing that the site is on the verge of collapse, despite a buoyant energy market, in order to force through swingeing cuts to their pay, jobs and pensions.
"Enough is enough", said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union. "Our global union family, particularly our affiliates in the countries where INEOS has operations, will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Grangemouth workers and their union Unite."
IndustriALL Global Union is organizing a demonstration in front of the headquarters of INEOS located in the Swiss town of Rolle on Friday, 25 October.
IndustriALL also calls all its affiliates to take action and send letters of protest to INEOS through the take action box on the right.