Bosses at Scotland’s biggest oil refinery are holding nearly 1,400 workers and the Scottish government to ransom.
Jim Ratcliffe, superyacht owner and boss of oil and chemicals giant Ineos, put large sections of the Grangemouth oil refinery into “cold shutdown” on Wednesday of last week.
He threatened to keep it closed unless workers signed up to a “survival plan” involving massive attacks on their working conditions and union rights by Monday of this week.
Those who don’t could be fired and re-hired on the new terms.
Tanker driver Tony said, “The whole of Grangemouth should come out, this affects everyone. We stopped an attack on our pensions, but if Ratcliffe wins they will be coming back for us next.”
Ineos also claims that if it doesn’t get its way—both in attacking its workers and getting more subsidies out of the British and Scottish governments—it may close the entire plant.
The workers’ Unite union called on them to reject the new conditions—which include worse redundancy terms, lower wages for new starters and an end to the final salary pension scheme.
Two in three workers refused to sign up—despite the threat of the sack and a £15,000 bribe.
More than 400 workers and supporters rallied at the refinery last Sunday.
“If you allow the school bully to take your apple, then he wants your dinner money,” said Unite convenor Mark Lyon. “This never ends until you stop them.”
Electrician Tom Curtis told Socialist Worker, “This will affect all Grangemouth workers. These Ineos bosses are holding the whole country to ransom.”
Unite members at Ineos had been set to strike on Sunday of last week and Monday of this week against the victimisation of union rep Stephen Deans.
But it quickly became clear that much more was at stake.
Ineos walked out of talks at the Acas conciliation service on Tuesday of last week—and Unite responded by calling off the strike. This was a mistake. It gave the bosses the green light to go on the offensive.
And Unite is offering to meet the bosses’ demand of a promise not to strike or even ballot for strikes until at least the end of this year.
Grangemouth supplies petrol and aviation fuel across Scotland and parts of England. This gives workers there an immense power to cause disruption, which they have used to great effect.
Most recently BP tanker drivers there defeated an attack on their pensions earlier this year. They were helped by other Grangemouth workers who refused to handle oil from scab tankers.
Construction workers at Grangemouth also played a key role in defeating the bosses’ Besna project of pay cuts and deskilling.
Ineos is determined to break that power. Unite needs to use it.
Additional reporting Josh Brown and Chris Newlove