Tayside and Central Scotland

Staff at giant Ineos plant in Grangemouth vote for strike action

Ineos complex at Grangemouth
Image caption Ineos has been in a stand-off with Unite over the treatment of a union member

Workers at the giant Ineos petrochemical plant and refinery in Grangemouth have voted in favour of strike action.

Unite the Union said more than 81% of those who voted supported the action, prompted by a company investigation into the union's convener at the plant.

Ineos said it was disappointed, adding the action would "hurt the site and could lead to closures and job losses."

Unite has yet to announce when the industrial action will take place.

Staff at the complex took part in a 48-hour strike in April 2008, leading to long queues at petrol forecourts across the country after the closure of the Forties oil pipeline.

Unite said it had held talks with BP, which owns the Forties pipeline, to discuss the latest dispute.

The dispute began after Ineos launched an investigation into its employee Stephen Deans.

Mr Deans, who has worked at the Grangemouth site for 24 years, also serves as the union's convener and is chairman of the Falkirk Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

Company investigation

He was briefly suspended by the Labour Party in July following an investigation into claims of vote-rigging in Falkirk in the selection process to find a replacement for out-going Labour MP Eric Joyce.

Mr Deans was subsequently cleared by the party and reinstated as the local party chairman. A police investigation into the issue was also dropped.

Since then, Ineos has begun its own investigation into Mr Deans.

The company said it was investigating whether or not Mr Deans' activities were in line with his role as an employee and a convener.

Ineos said their investigation was due to conclude on 18 October and a decision based on its findings would be published on 25 October.

Bosses have said the petrochemical plant at the site could close by 2017 if they could not stem losses of £150m a year.

Ineos also jointly owns the refinery, which is attached to the chemical plant, with PetroChina.

The union said about 700 staff were employed at the chemical plant while about 500 worked at the refinery.

Of the 889 who took part in the ballot for industrial action, 723 backed strike action, while 165 members voted against it.

Unite Scottish regional secretary Pat Rafferty said: "This overwhelming result reflects the genuine ill-feeling held by the Grangemouth workforce, because of the grossly unfair treatment of Stephen Deans, who has 24 years of loyal service at the site.

"Despite the ongoing threats of plant closures at the Grangemouth site, the workforce are determined to support their colleague and to bring this injustice to an end.

"This tight-knit community has no tolerance for the unfair treatment of a trade unionist because they know that an attack against one is an attack against all."

'Union's behaviour'

Mr Rafferty added: "The strength of this ballot result should be a wake-up call to management to step back from the brink and stop playing Russian roulette with the Grangemouth site."

In a statement, Ineos said: "Ineos is disappointed that Unite's Grangemouth members have voted for industrial action over the Stephen Deans investigation."

It added: "Any industrial action will hurt the site and could lead to closures and job losses."

Calum MacLean, chairman of Ineos Petrochemicals UK, added: "Ineos will not be bullied by the union's behaviour.

"There cannot be one rule for union officials and one rule for everyone else."

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: "The Scottish government has been in discussion with both Unite and Ineos management.

"We are disappointed that discussions to date have yet to resolve the issues between the two sides and we urge the union and Ineos managers to work together to achieve a settlement.

"We will continue to offer any support that would facilitate those talks."

In addition to voting for strike action, workers also backed action short of a strike.

There were 889 votes cast, with 805 members voting for the action - 84 voted against.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites