Sunday’s two-day strike by 1,200 workers at Grangemouth oil refinery will go ahead, said Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley yesterday.
Speaking before addressing a mass meeting at the plant, Woodley said: ‘There’s no possibility of withdrawing the strike action. We need to understand what we’re dealing with here.
‘We’ve got a company that is owned by a multi-millionaire close to being a billionaire. We’ve got a company that is cash-rich with a pension scheme that is also cash-rich.
‘We’ve got a pension scheme that is viable and we’ve got a pension scheme that the company has already cut its own contribution to by 30 per cent for the last couple of years.
‘And in spite of all those reasons they still want to remove the scheme for new starters and I believe eventually remove it for all of our members and we are not prepared to accept that, not under any circumstances.’
The strike is over plans by private equity refinery owners, Ineos, to replace final salary pensions with a defined contribution pension scheme.
Unite has indicated that it will begin a work-to-rule after the strike, which could cause long-term problems for the 24 hour a day, seven day a week operation at Grangemouth.
Unite regional officer Pat Rafferty added: ‘We owe it to our members to protect those pensions and we owe it to the generations to come to protect those pension rights.’
He insisted: ‘It’s the company that’s holding this country to ransom, and not the trade union and not our members.’
Rafferty said that the union will speak to the company but the final salary pension ‘is a red line issue closing the final salary pension scheme is something we can’t accept.’
Earlier Unite accused Ineos of inflaming the situation yesterday after the company sent a letter to all workers telling them that the pension scheme will close on 1st August.
Unite said that the letter ‘is another demonstration of the company’s cynical approach to the dispute and their workers’ and ‘makes clear the company’s intention to press ahead with the closure of the pension scheme no matter what’.
The union added that the company has employed incendiary tactics to seek to exacerbate rather than settle the dispute, including misleading the media about how much Grangemouth workers earn and misleading the Grangemouth workers themselves about the pension scheme’s funding levels.
Ineos even issued a defamation writ against the union during conciliation talks at ACAS.
Woodley told reporters: ‘We understand the seriousness of the situation. It is extremely serious, that is why Unite has been behaving responsibly.
‘We have made sure the plant and equipment is in a state to start up extremely quickly and we have made sure there is emergency cover for the emergency services.’
BP has said it will tonight close down the Forties oil pipeline, which provides a third of the UK’s daily oil output, if a strike by refinery workers goes ahead.
The BP-run pipeline relies on steam and electricity from the Ineos refinery at Grangemouth in central Scotland.
Oil and Gas UK have said the closure of the pipeline could cost the British economy up to £50m a day.
A BP spokesman said that closing the pipeline would cause up to 70 platforms in the North Sea to either shut down or reduce production of oil.
The pipeline links the Forties oil fields in the North Sea with the Kinneil processing plant, which receives about 725,000 barrels of crude oil and 80 million cubic metres of gas a day.
Safety issues mean the pipeline requires between 12 and 24 hours to reopen.
Downing Street has urged the two sides in the dispute to get back round the negotiating table.