Socialist Worker

Stand up to Ineos bosses' blackmail at Grangemouth

by Dave Sewell in Grangemouth
Issue No. 2376

The attacks on workers at Scotland's Grangemouth oil refinery are a threat to all workers. 

Bosses and politicians are playing with the lives of hundreds of people. 

The workforce at Grangemouth voted to strike over the victimsation of Unite union rep Stevie Deans.

Bosses responded by temporarily closing the plant. They demanded a pledge of no strikes, and massive cuts to pay, pensions, union rights and job security before they would reopen it.

When workers stood up against this, billionaire boss Jim Ratcliffe said he would close the petrochemical plant permanently.

This will mean disaster for the 800 workers who Ratcliffe's company Ineos will lay off directly."It was a total shock," one Ineos worker told Socialist Worker. "People were coming out of the meeting on the phone to their husbands and wives in a state of shock.

"There are whole families that work here. It's a community in itself that'll just be gone."

Many workers on short term and agency contracts have already been sent home. 

The prospect of closure has sent shockwaves across the whole region."I'm absolutely devastated," said cafe worker Claire in nearby Falkirk. "My brother worked there for 18 years since he left school - but he lost his job lost night.

"It's impossible to walk down Falkirk High Street without meeting relatives or friends of Grangemouth workers. The site is seen as one of the few remaining chances at a secure job for young people."

Sixteen year old Caitlin told Socialist Worker, "This will affect everyone, from the people at small companies that do work at the plant right down to the people in the sandwich bars that will have to close. 

"The government talks about getting people into work and then lets something like this happen.

"The government should nationalise it. Or if the workers took action we'd all support that."

The reaction to the bosses' blackmail has been miserable. The Tories say it is a business matter. Scottish first minister and Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has been brokering talks to get workers to accept the rotten attacks.

Labour leader Ed Miliband's tried to witchhunt Unite activists inside the Labour Party. This opened the door to Ineos bosses' witchhunting of Stevie Deans.

Most important is the response of the Unite union. Unite rightly told workers not to surrender and demanded nationalisation of the plant.

Workers rightly rejected the bosses' blackmail and bullying. But now Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has said the union will accept the firm's demands "warts and all".

Instead of encouraging resistance, the union surrended.

It could have pushed for workers to occupy the plant or pulled out other refinery workers to stop the company bullies. 

Union members at the site complained to Socialist Worker of being kept in the dark, while right wing media commentators gloated about the union's capitulation.

Unite promised a fight to defend Stevie Deans. It balloted a section of the workforce for strikes - and got a resounding mandate. But when bosses pulled out of talks Unite responded by cancelling its strike and promising not to strike again.

Ineos workers have shown their willingness to fight twice - in the strike ballot and the rejection of new terms. But if not turned into action, that anger could turn into despair very quickly.

Retreat in the face of blackmail will encourage every boss across Britain to use the same tactics.

It will encourage further assaults on pay, pensions, jobs and union rights. We need to turn the tide.

 


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