The bosses at Grangemouth oil refinery have taken the decision to close the petrochemical plant plant in the face of workers resistance to their blackmail attempts. This attack must not be taken lying down. Tam Burke discusses the background to the Grangemouth closure and the resultant estimated 800 job losses.
The bosses at Grangemouth oil refinery have taken the decision to close the petrochemical plant plant in the face of workers resistance to their blackmail attempts. This attack must not be taken lying down.
Grangemouth workers’ decision to reject attacks on their pay, pensions and trade union rights will come as no surprise to anyone who attended the Unite members rally on Sunday, 20th October.
The rally was called after the firm’s management locked the workers out and shut the site down following weeks of industrial action against attempts to break union resistance. Every condemnation of the site owners, Ineos, by the speakers was met with cheers. The cuts to pay, pensions and job prospects were denounced and contrasted with the firm’s operating profits in 2011 of £31 million and £49 million on 2012. Ineos want government investment, but Unite has asked if they even pay tax in Britain. In 2010 Ineos global headquarters moved from Britain to Switzerland, saving over £100 million per year in tax. Billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe lives in Geneva.
Now the owners have announced that the petrochemical plant, part of the biggest industrial site in Scotland, is to shut with an estimated 800 job losses. They are blaming the workers for refusing to accept the “survival plan” to boost the owner’s profits. A liquidator is to be appointed to sell the plant. The oil refinery will also remain on shutdown until workers give in and accept the new contracts, management have stated.
At the rally, I spoke to a young worker, not long started at the site and who’s just bought a house with his girlfriend. The first payment was due the following Thursday but now their future plans are all threatened. He’s now locked out but, like his fellow workers, determined not to bend the knee to the employer’s demands. There were also families present with babes in arms, there to show the bosses the determination of the local community not to be robbed of their chance for a better life.
For months now the owners have been trying to undermine trade union militancy at the plant as they plotted to bring in cuts to workers’ conditions.
This is the reason behind the victimisation recently experienced by senior Unite shop steward and Falkirk Labour Party chairperson Stevie Deans. The union has made clear that this targeting must stop and will not be accepted by the workforce.
Now about 65% of the union membership has rejected in a clear and decisive vote the attempt to push through the proposed new working conditions.
Closure of the petrochemical plant, would be a major blow to thousands of workers and their families in Scotland.
All Grangemouth workers must remain firm in the face of this blackmail by the bosses. One thing is clear: Grangemouth cannot remain in private ownership any longer. Two weeks ago, the Scottish Nationalist government was forced to takeover Prestwick Airport. Grangemouth cannot be allowed to remain in private hands either, and should be nationalised without delay along with the rest of the energy industry.
The Scottish TUC must take a lead in mobilising the whole of the trade union movement to join with the Grangemouth workers in fighting the attacks of the bosses. This is serious enough to merit the calling of a Scottish one-day general strike if needed.
- Break the lockout; end the victimisation. Full Support to the Grangemouth workers!
- Nationalise the energy industry under workers’ control – plan for public need, not private profit!