THE petrochemical plant at the giant Grangemouth complex in central Scotland is to close with the loss of over 800 jobs, owner Ineos announced yesterday.
Over 500 workers at the oil refinery are to be locked out, then sacked, unless they agree to a wage freeze and pay, pension and job cuts.
The bosses’ Tory-led coalition government in Westminster yesterday shed crocodile tears over the sackings and the lock-out and said that it was ‘saddened’, while the Scottish SNP government said that it was scouring the world to try to find a buyer for the closed plant.
Thus has ended the first stage of a classic union busting operation to slash costs by cutting pay, pensions and jobs and to smash the union that represents the workforce, Unite.
Ineos said a decision on ‘whether to restart the refinery’ would be taken once the ‘threat of strike action’ had been removed.
The dispute was ignited at the plant, near Falkirk, over the treatment of a union official. It was then escalated by the company to the point where the union threatened strike action, but backed down and cancelled it, when the employer, who was determined and working according to a pre-prepared plan, threatened closures.
Accordingly, the Unite union dropped the strike action and the Ineos bosses reacted, not with an olive branch, but with a kick in the groin, stopping production at the plants and issuing an ultimatum that a ‘survival plan’ with much-reduced terms and conditions of service would have to be accepted if the plants were to be reopened.
Unite members rejected the survival plan and the bosses responded yesterday closing the petrochemical plant, and spelling out that the oil refinery will be next.
However, the next move is now up to the giant Unite trade union. All of its 1.5 million members will be watching how the union leadership reacts to the class war tactics of the bosses, and if their leaders are capable of replying to them in the way that they should. They know that if Unite will not fight at Grangemouth then it will not fight for them, since jobs, wages and pensions are under attack everywhere, as this is the only way that British bosses can survive.
One Grangemouth worker said: ‘I feel sick. It’s gone. There’s no livelihoods left and we don’t even know if we’re going to get redundancy out of it. I hope they’re happy with themselves.’
He went on: ‘There are folk in there have a husband and wife work here. That’s it. Folk will be lucky if they have a house at Christmas.’
He added that Calum MacLean, chairman of Grangemouth Petrochemicals, was smiling as he told the workers that they no longer had jobs.
What is driving the Calum MacLeans is not just some vendetta against the labour movement but the crisis of world and British capitalism which is calling for exceptional measures against workers to introduce conditions more akin to the 19th than the 21st century.
What is required is a decisive response to this vicious attack, by the Unite union, all the UK trade unions, the Scottish and the UK TUC and the petrochemical trade unions internationally. If their leaders cannot make such a reply they must be replaced immediately by leaders who will.
There is only one way forward.
Unite must occupy both the petrochemical and oil refinery at Grangemouth, with the physical support of all trade unions, and the international union federations must conduct a campaign all over the world against Ineos!
The Scottish and UK TUC must call a one-day general strike to fight this attack, which is an attack on all workers, to put a stop to it.
Unite and all TUC trade unions must demand that the Grangemouth plants be nationalised and be put under workers’ management, and show that to achieve this they are ready to call an indefinite general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers’ government.
This is the only answer that the bosses will understand. Any further signs of trade union weakness will be like showing a red rag to a bull.