Thursday, October 24, 2013

Grangemouth and Fracking

Who said this?

Ineos has been flagging likely cuts for months but instead of engaging with the situation and organising a coherent plan to save jobs, Unite called a strike over a pathetic and petty issue related to Labour Party internal politics.  By the time the union woke up to the reality workers faced, it was too late.

Of course the threat to the refinery itself is palpable, and of course local MPs, MSPs and ministers will do everything we can to try to find another buyer for the closed plant. But what’s the proposition as it stands?  Come and enjoy a non-relationship with a militant union acting with its workers’ interests at the bottom of its priorities?

Ineos is a very tough, world-scale company and exists to make as much money as it can – what did people think was going to happen once the company’s offer was rejected following the stupidest of strikes for the most idiotic of reasons?

Workers at Ineos need proper union representation – right now, they’re getting the fumbling, dumbed-down, politicised opposite.

Some die-hard Tory? Someone from Ineos itself? A horrible libertarian?

Nope. This is Eric Joyce, Labour MP for Falkirk,

And let's remind ourselves of what the company offer was to the workers:

The plan would have seen bonus cuts, changes to working terms, a reduction in pension benefits and a no-strike pledge, sweetened by a £15,000 one-off payment. 

For those of us who've managed to cling to our jobs through the financial downturn this would look like a pretty good deal. Not to the Unite though.

Nobody can be surprised at the response of Ineos to the rejection of this survival plan. It's tragic that so many of the workers ignored common sense and voted the way the union said they should vote. The 50% who voted the other way have every reason to feel bitter and pissed off at their co-workers.

There is also another factor at play here, beyond the employer-employee conflict, which is that Ineos needed to invest heavily to cater for the import of cheap shale gas from the United States. A consequence of the reduced flow of gas from North Sea pipelines. This is yet another example of the revolution that fracking has brought to the US. An alternative option is to look to UK supplies of fracked gas - but of course this is a much higher risk proposition because of the opposition to fracking from environmentalists (in and out of government), from the Labour Party and the EU.

If Unite had any sense of vision it would have been pressurising the company and the government to invest in UK fracking as a way of securing jobs and investment locally.

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