Grangemouth dispute: Union members reject Ineos offer

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBBC Scotland cameras took to the skies to show the scale of the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical plant.

Half the permanent workforce at the Grangemouth complex have rejected new terms and conditions proposed by Ineos, union officials have said.

The Unite union said that, by the 18:00 deadline, it had been given 665 forms rejecting the offer on pay and pensions out of a workforce of 1,350.

Site operator Ineos said it would meet on Tuesday to discuss its options.

It has warned the plant would close in 2017 without new investment and changes to workers' terms and conditions.

The firm had said it received about 300 positive returns for the pay offer by Sunday.

However, the union had asked its 1,035 members at Grangemouth not to hand the forms to Ineos.

Image caption Union officials display letters of rejection

It has accused the company of giving workers an ultimatum of accepting worse pay and conditions or losing their job.

The 2.6 square-mile refinery and petrochemical site was shut down ahead of a planned strike by Unite members. It remains closed despite the 48-hour strike, which had been due to begin on Sunday, being called off.

The union has now promised no strikes and said it was prepared to negotiate.

'Going bust'

The refinery, which has an annual capacity of 10 million tonnes, provides most of the fuel in Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.

The petrochemicals facility at the site manufactures more than two million tonnes of chemical products per year, which are later transformed into essential items such as bottles and pipes, cabling and insulation and food packaging.

Calum MacLean, chairman of Ineos Grangemouth, told BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the company had received "around 300" forms by Sunday.

Mr MacLean said he "remained pretty confident" there would be strong support for the company from workers.

He added: "Getting the plant back up and running again is not about necessarily the number of people, albeit that will influence when we can start it.

"What is important here is that we have asked the unions to give us an assurance that there will be no strike action during the consultation period, which is the 45 to 60 days when we are going to sit down and negotiate with the employees and talk about the changes we are trying to impose.

"People need to realise that this site has lost £150m per year for the last four years. It has got a pension fund which is £200m in deficit and it is on the point of going bust.

"If it wasn't because of the support of the shareholders, who are funding those losses, then there is a very, very serious situation here which means the site may not start up again".

Ineos has put forward what it calls a survival plan for Grangemouth.

These changes were detailed in letters sent to staff at the end of last week. They include freezing the basic salary and offering no bonuses until at least the end of 2016.

The shift allowance would also be reduced and pensions transferred from a final salary to a defined benefits scheme. The company has said no job cuts were expected.

It also said employees who support its survival plan at this stage will receive a transitional payment of up to £15,000 and an enhanced employer contribution to their pension.

Unite said it had strongly advised its members at Grangemouth not to return the forms backing the changes to their contract. It accused Ineos of "bribes and blackmail".

The union's Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, told Good Morning Scotland: "We have continuously given assurances of no strikes from now up until December.

"In fact yesterday (Sunday), when we had a rally here, I gave a commitment that we would have no strikes for however long it took to allow negotiations to take place between ourselves and Ineos on the survival plan. We are not imposing any conditions.

Image caption Workers staged a rally at the site over the weekend

"Ineos wants to come to the negotiating table at the same time as threatening our members and threatening people here with the sack in 45 days. You can't negotiate and impose at the same time."

First Minister Alex Salmond repeated his calls for Ineos to "fire up the plant" and for Unite to commit to a "no strike - without strings - guarantee" at the SNP conference in Perth.

Ineos shareholders are due to discuss the future of the complex on Tuesday.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, who is scheduled to meet with Ineos later this week, urged the company to "withdraw the ultimatums delivered to the workforce".

She said: "The company should also undertake to immediately reopen the plant and return to production and both the union and the company should return to meaningful talks, with Acas if necessary, to deliver a solution to this matter which has serious consequences for Scotland and the UK."

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

More on this story

Related Internet links

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