Tayside and Central Scotland

Union 'step back from brink' warning to Grangemouth bosses

Image caption Workers at the Grangemouth site have balloted for industrial action

Union leaders have called on the management at Ineos' Grangemouth plant to "step back from the brink", after employees voted in favour of strike.

The dispute began after Ineos launched an investigation into Stephen Deans, Unite's convener at the plant.

Mr Deans was involved in the row with the Labour Party over a candidate selection in the Falkirk constituency.

Ineos said it was probing Mr Deans' use of company time and resources. Unite said Ineos was using gunboat diplomacy.

Mr Deans, who has worked at the Grangemouth site for 24 years, is chairman of the Falkirk Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

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 MP Eric Joyce, who was elected for Labour but has now left the party.

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

Since then, Ineos began its own investigation into Mr Deans.

Unite said a ballot of its members at the petrochemical plant and refinery resulted in a 81% vote for industrial action, among those who voted.

Image caption Pat Rafferty said Grangemouth bosses were playing "Russian roulette" with the plant

The union's regional secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: "The responsibility lies fairly and squarely with the employer. This is will be the third investigation that Stephen Deans has gone through.

"There's been overwhelming support for Stephen Deans on the site.

"This could end right here, right now. Ineos needs to step back from the brink. They need to stop the gunboat diplomacy."

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

Gordon Milne, Grangemouth's operations director, said: "The investigation process that's been executed at the moment is the normal procedure that we employ on site, has been used for many years and is the one we'd used for any employee on the complex.

"There have been other investigations that have been executed but the investigation that Ineos is carrying out is different to the other ones. The investigation we're carrying out is into the use of company time and resources."

Mr Milne said there was every possibility the plant could close in 2017 if losses - which he put at £10m a month - were not reversed by structural changes.

Image caption Gordon Milne said details of the company's "survival plan" would be discussed with staff next week

He added: "Grangemouth is really at a crossroads. Last year we lost around £170m, and that's an ongoing trend.

"That's one of the things that saddens me the most about the ballot. We've been talking to the employees and all the stakeholders about the state the business is in. Without structural change there's every possibility the business will close in 2017."

Mr Milne said Grangemouth bosses would meet with the union at the start of next week, as well as employees

Grangemouth staff took part in a 48-hour strike in 2008, leading to long queues at petrol forecourts following the closure of BP's Forties oil pipeline.

About 700 staff are employed at the chemical plant while about 500 work at the refinery, which is jointly owned by Ineos and PetroChina.

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