Grangemouth dispute: Staff hold protest rally outside plant

Grangemouth rally
Image caption Workers have been given until Monday to consider proposals over pay and pensions

Hundreds of workers at the Grangemouth refinery have held a rally outside the plant amid the continuing dispute which has seen the plant go into shutdown.

It comes as First Minister Alex Salmond urged operators Ineos to "fire up the plant and do it now".

Ineos has asked the Unite union to make a commitment to call no further industrial action this year.

Unite said it would agree, but on the condition that Ineos would not impose cuts planned for the same period.

Management and unions failed to reach a deal on Friday which could see operations restart.

The plant was shut down last week as a result of the dispute, which came close to industrial action by the union.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Mr Salmond said: "I think Unite should give a no strike - without strings - guarantee.

"Once that is done Ineos should fire up the plant and then the various discussions, negotiations, consultations on terms and conditions, should take place against the background of a working plant, not a plant that is lying cold."

He added: "Let's get the plant up and running so that everybody has a vested interest in coming to terms in a plant that is working, as opposed to this current situation, which is wholly dangerous for the workforce and the Scottish economy, of a plant that is lying cold."

Pat Rafferty, Unite's Scottish secretary, said: "Rather than demonstrating, workers want to be working to make sure that Grangemouth has a successful future. Instead their livelihoods are being thrown into turmoil because of Ineos' irresponsibility which risks the future of the site.

"Anger is growing among workers and the company now risks destroying good Scottish jobs and a powerhouse of the Scottish economy."

He added: "Once again I call on Ineos to drop the cynical blackmail, start the plant up and talk seriously about securing a future for Grangemouth."

'Ticking clock'

Unite has published a strongly-worded advert in a number of Scottish Sunday newspapers titled: "A message to the people of Scotland".

It described Grangemouth as the "powerhouse" of Scotland's economy and urged management to open the plant.

The advert said: "This climate of fear has been created to try to force working men and women into signing away their rights and the pensions which they have saved all their working lives.

Image caption Unite has published an advert in several Scottish newspapers

"This is a company out of control. This is holding Scotland to ransom."

The advert asked people to support the workforce and contact MPs and MSPs.

Ineos said the dispute had cost it £20m on top of monthly losses of £10m. The company has warned that the plant would close in 2017 without fresh investment and changes to workers' terms and conditions.

It has put forward a survival plan for the site and asked workers to back changes to their contracts and conditions as part of the proposals by 18:00 on Monday ahead of a shareholders meeting on Tuesday.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe said the fate of the Grangemouth site rested with the workforce.

He said: "This is not a bluff. The clock is ticking, Grangemouth could have a future but that is absolutely in the hands of the workers."

Gordon Grant, Ineos site manager at Grangemouth, said: "We have to address the facts and the facts are that we need the survival plan to have a long-term future, a very, very good long-term future for Grangemouth, and for Scotland.

"That's what we are putting forward and that's what we are asking our employees to support."

The dispute that led to a vote for strike action had centred on the company's treatment of union official Stephen Deans.

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