Grangemouth refinery: Unions look to save plant

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Union leaders were today expected to offer concessions in a bid to save the Grangemouth petrochemical plant which owners Ineos yesterday said they would close, throwing 800 people out of work.

Workers had rejected a package of changes demanded by the company, including a pay freeze and loss of final salary pensions.

Workers leaving the plant yesterday. Picture: PA

Workers leaving the plant yesterday. Picture: PA

But the Unite union is now said to be ready to accept the plan in talks expected to take place with management later today. Ineos insisted the petrochemical plant had no future unless its proposals were approved.

First Minister Alex Salmond and UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey have both spoken directly to billionaire Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe.

Mr Salmond also spoke to Unite leader Pat Rafferty. Afterwards he said: “I strongly believe there is still room for negotiation between both parties.”

Ineos, however, has said while further meetings would be held to discuss redundancies there were “no prospects” of returning to conciliation service Acas to revisit the decision to close the petrochemical plant.

The adjoining oil refinery at Grangemouth will stay open, although the entire site has been closed for the past week .

The dispute first flared in the summer over the company’s alleged victimisation of Unite official Stephen Deans, who has worked at Grangemouth for more than 20 years

Unite members at Grangemouth had been due to strike last Sunday over Mr Dean’s treatment, but called off their action at the last minute.

Ineos had closed the plant ahead of the walk-out and has not restarted it since.

Mr Ratcliffe had said at the weekend that if the petrochemical plant closed it was likely the neighbouring refinery – which provides most of the fuel to Scotland, the north of England and Northern Ireland – would go as well.

A union spokesman said: “Unite has made recommendations to Ineos as a way to save jobs and prevent needless harm to this plant and the local community. We meet with the company today and will hear then if they share these objectives.”

The company insisted it had no alternative but to close the business after it failed to persuade staff to accept the changes to their terms and conditions. Ineos said white-collar workers such as admin staff had backed the plan, but workers represented by Unite had rejected it.

Ineos’ actions were condemned in the Commons. Former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said the closure of any part of Grangemouth would be an “act of industrial vandalism”.