Pre-emptive closure of Grangemouth 'catastrophic'

By staff writers
October 23, 2013

Community groups, unions and politicians have condemned the announcement by multi-billion pound company Ineos to close the Grangemouth petrochemical plant without negotiation.

The decision, if it goes ahead, will cost 800 jobs directly and cause devastation to the local economy.

On its website, Ineos boasts that "We are one of the world's largest manufacturers of chemicals and oil products, with sales of $45 billion, employing 15000 people".

The company sought to impose new contracts on workers that would cut wages and pensions through the inducement of a cash 'sweetener'. It said the move was necessary to the viability of the plant, but provided no transparent or readily verifiable evidence for this claim, the union suggested. Other commentators dispute the company's figures.

The Unite union stressed that they had made no immediate plans for strike action, despite contrary media statements by Ineos.

The union proposed ACAS negotiations without conditions, but says the company refused to withdraw its cuts, to discuss them, or to negotiate around them, claims Unite.

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish secretary said: "Unite and our members at Grangemouth are devastated by the announcement this morning of the closure of the petrochemical plant. It has confirmed our fears that this was the intention of Ineos all along.

"Discussions have taken place with the company this morning and will continue over the course of the day. We have made further proposals in a last-ditch effort to stave off these catastrophic job losses which we believe are tantamount to economic and industrial vandalism.

"Make no mistake, one man is holding this workforce and this country to ransom and that man is Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe.

"The ball is now in the court of Jim Ratcliffe and the respective governments in Edinburgh and Westminster and we await their responses."

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, said today (23 October 2013) that the Scottish government will make every effort to find a solution and new owner.

Union representatives said on Wednesday night that they planned to re-open talks at 8am on Thursday 24 October with the Swiss-based Ineos, which announced it was closing the plant after only half the staff accepted its "survival plan".

Responding to Grangemouth developments today, Edinburgh University rector Peter McColl, writing on his personal Facebook page, quoted the late Upper Clyde union leader and social and political commentator Jimmy Reid: "I challenge the right of any group of men, in business or government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable"

An online petition to bring Grangemouth into public ownership has been launched on Avaaz. The petitioners say: "It is clear that Scotland requires Grangemouth in order to ensure a sustainable future for its people. We the people do hereby ask the Scottish Government to consider nationalisation of the plant, securing it for the future, securing the jobs of the people working there and ensuring that Scotland can never be held to ransom.

"We believe that the government could successfully purchase, invest in and develop the plant as a whole. It is not a purchase, it is an investment in the future of Scotland."

Unite, which represents workers at Grangemouth, is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. Its general secretary is Len McCluskey.

* More detailed analysis from Robin McAlpine of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, via openDemocracy: http://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robin-mcalpine/whats-really-happenin...

* Grangemouth petition: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Nationalise_Grangemouth/?dkLfmab

* Unite: http://www.unitetheunion.org/

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