The 1,200 striking workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery yesterday made it clear they are determined to defend their pensions.
Unite members walked out of the plant carrying their branch banner and waving trade union flags at 6am for a two-day strike.
As a result of the strike, BP has shut down its Forties pipeline that carries 30 per cent of the UK’s daily oil output from the North Sea offshore platforms.
It will take at least three days to re-open the pipeline which relies on Grangemouth to power it.
Industry body Oil and Gas UK said the 48-hour walkout will cost the UK £50m a day.
UK Prime Minister Brown and Scotland’s First Minister Salmond urged motorists not to panic buy as pumps ran dry across Scotland and shortages began in the north of England.
On Saturday evening, the Scottish government announced that about 65,000 tonnes of fuel, mostly diesel (said to be about ten days’ worth), will be arriving from ports across Europe over the next few days.
The emergency fuel supplies are due to be ferried up the River Forth on seven tankers from the ports of Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Gothenburg.
The Grangemouth strikers held a mass rally at 11am yesterday attended by hundreds of supporters from the local community.
The rally was addressd by Michael Connarty MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk and Cathy Peattie, MSP for Falkirk East.
On the picket line yesterday lunchtime, one worker said: ‘I think this strike is justified, when you look at the profits this site has made through the year.
‘We are here because of one man who is making so much, and we are asking for so little.’
Another striker said: ‘If you speak to the top man, he’s the man that’s holding the country to ransom.
‘I’ve worked for BP for 25 years and this company’s taken over.
‘I’ve put nearly £400,000 into this pension scheme, and you want me to put more, another 6 per cent – do you think that’s fair!’
The top man is the refinery’s private equity owner, Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe who has a personal fortune of £2.3bn.
SNP first minister Salmond is meeting prime minister Brown today for an emergency summit to plan strike-breaking.
All Trades Union Alliance national secretary Dave Wiltshire told News Line yesterday: ‘The strike should be extended. The two-day strike shows the power the working class has to defend its rights when it’s used.
‘All pensions could have been defended, except for the cowardice and refusal to fight of the trade union leaders.
‘Grangemouth workers must demand an all-out stoppage.
‘Pensions are an issue for the whole working class which requires a general strike.
‘It’s an issue that can only be resolved by going beyond this system, which cannot pay workers what they are owed when they retire, to socialism.’