Striking Grangemouth workers have issued a direct appeal to the people of Scotland.
They took out a series of adverts in the Scottish media yesterday (Monday 28th April), to explain to the people of Scotland the reasons for their strike and to ask for their understanding and support.
Seven adverts were placed in newspapers covering the whole of Scotland on behalf of the 1,200 Grangemouth workers.
They expressed regret for any potential inconvenience caused to the general public but explained that the workers have been left with no choice but to strike to defend their pensions.
In the advert, the Unite members from the Grangemouth plant say that their pensions are an important part of their wages and that the changes Ineos are trying to force through, despite the fact their scheme is well-funded and affordable, will have a serious impact on their and their families’ futures.
Ineos, the plant’s owner, is a multi-million pound profit making company.
Unite National Officer, Phil McNulty said: ‘A lot of untruths have been peddled about the reasons for this strike.
‘Our members have been accused of being greedy and irresponsible but this strike is not about getting more money from their employer or an attack on the ordinary people of Scotland.
‘The Grangemouth workers are having to strike to defend their existing pension scheme which, despite the fact it is well-funded and in profit, their hugely rich employer, Ineos, wants to close it.
‘We wanted to explain directly to the people of Scotland that our members’ actions are not taken lightly and are intended to get Ineos to stop its attack on their pensions and is not in any way directed against them.
‘Our members have been shown huge understanding and support from their compatriots thus far and we hope that we can rely on that continuing.
‘Unite is proud to be representing its members at the Grangemouth plant.’
The adverts appeared in the Daily Record, the Scottish Metro, the Scotsman, the Edinburgh Evening News, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, the Dundee Courier and the Evening Telegraph.
On Sunday, hundreds of people from Grangemouth joined workers at a rally at the refinery to show their support for the strike.
They were joined by local MP Michael Connarty and MSP Cathy Peattie.
Nearly 60 Westminster MPs have signed an Early Day Motion laid by Grangemouth MP, Michael Connarty, adding their support for the Grangemouth workers and expressing their concern at the aggressive tactics employed by Ineos’ management.
On its website the Unite TGWU section publishes statements on ‘the truth about the Ineos dispute’.
The Unite statement: ‘re Innovene Pension scheme’, says: ‘Following a complaint from Ineos, Unite wishes to clarify the position regarding the pension arrangements for workers at the Grangemouth refinery and its ongoing dispute with Ineos over proposed pension changes.
‘At the time Ineos acquired the Grangemouth refinery from BP in 2005 the BP pension scheme was funded to 115%.
‘Unite believes that Ineos made a business decision to acquire and transfer assets to a value of 100% meaning that the new pension plan could be fully funded.
‘This decision also meant that the value of the pension assets being transferred were reduced by £40 million.
‘The union believes that the current Ineos pension plan is funded to 120% of the required value, and if Ineos had made a different commercial decision at the time of the transfer the assets would have been enhanced by the additional £40 million.
‘Unite believes that the company has no grounds for closing the pension scheme or for implementing changes.
‘Unite believes that it is legitimate to comment that Ineos are responsible for the current pension plan being valued about £40 million below what the value would have been had the full value of the fund been transferred in 2005.
‘Unite objects to the company’s proposals but wish to make it clear that:
‘1. Since the transfer in 2005 Ineos have not taken £40 million pounds out of their employees’ pension plan for the company’s own use and profit.
‘2. Since the transfer in 2005 Ineos have not stripped assets from the current plan to a value of £40 million pounds.
‘3. Since the transfer in 2005 Ineos have not spent £40 million pounds out of the current pension plan.
‘Unite is happy to clarify the above points, and Unite have never asserted that the company has done anything which is unlawful.
‘The clarification provided is without prejudice to the union’s continued objection to Ineos’ proposals to alter the pension arrangements for workers at Grangemouth.’
Answering ‘frequently asked questions’ Unite says:
‘What did the company offer – they say they took the proposal to close the final salary pension scheme off the table?
‘That’s not true. Ineos insisted the existing scheme will still close to new entrants on August 1st.
They made that a condition of any negotiated change.
‘We were unable to agree to that condition.
‘Accepting a money purchase scheme for new entrants means we would eventually be unable to protect the existing scheme because of the diminishing number of members that would be affected.
‘Why is this proposal unacceptable to the union?
‘The Company can afford to continue this scheme. Since the scheme opened, despite dropping contributions, the surplus of the scheme has grown. It is funded now at 120%.
‘There is no question to us that this scheme can afford to sustain the current and new members.
‘Would Unite members consider paying contributions to the scheme?
‘They do contribute. Other companies in the Oil and Petrochemical sector do have a specific amount deducted from their salary.
‘Ineos workers do not and the size of their salary reflects that – i.e. there is a “salary surrender” operating. Some other oil company workers, eg Shell, have both higher salaries and better pension arrangements.
‘Would we consider going into further talks?
‘We have left the door open and should ACAS ask us, and the company are willing to negotiate in the proper sense, we will respond.
‘What are we doing to provide emergency cover?
‘We have a formal agreement with the Company on how we will deal with providing safety and emergency cover and utilities service to the site in order to protect the plant and equipment.
‘What are the implications for the Fortis pipeline? What does this do – how does this work? Is it true this is being closed down by Unite’s action?
‘Utilities are generated on the site including high pressure steam for production.
‘During the strike, the steam pressure would be reduced and we believe this would not allow crude oil to be pumped ashore.
‘Decisions by the operating companies would have to take that into account.
‘Has Unite agreed to keep open the deep water jetty as the company has requested to keep oil/fuel supply to the rest of Scotland?
‘What about the Scottish government’s offer to bring in a pensions actuary to arbitrate providing that Unite suspends its action?
‘Both the Company and the Union have agreed that while we appreciate the offer, it would not assist at this point in time in resolving the dispute.
‘What about Ineos’ claim that the company needs to make these pension savings to make urgent investments in the plant?
‘The Company would save around £1.5 million. The investment at the plant requires, they say, £720 million.
‘Are you planning further strike dates?
‘If the dispute is not resolved, we will consider our next industrial action.’