Workers at Grangemouth petrochemical plant and oil refinery in Scotland have had their pensions wrecked, their pay frozen, and their union rights undermined by a rotten deal. After bullying billionaire boss Jim Ratcliffe threatened to close the plant many will be relieved to still have jobs.
But Ratcliffe should not have got away with his blackmail. He was able to ride roughshod over his employees thanks to the Unite union leaders’ capitulation. Workers had stood firm in the months before the surrender.
When Unite held a strike ballot they voted to walk out. When Unite told them not to sign up to Ratcliffe’s attacks they didn’t. And beyond Grangemouth, workers in the industry have shown similar resolve when showing solidarity with those who are fighting back.
But when it came to the crunch union leader Len McCluskey did not use their combined strength. Instead he signed up to a terrible deal without ever calling a fight. Despite McCluskey’s often fiery rhetoric his strategy rests on winning a Labour election victory, not on workers’ struggle.
Labour leader Ed Miliband likes to tell anyone who’ll listen that “We can do better than this”. That slogan applies to us too. Workers can do much better if they stand up to bosses—and to union leaders who throw away the chance to resist.