Bosses in plea over refinery strike
Owners of a giant oil refinery and petrochemical site have urged workers not to go ahead with a strike in a row over a union convenor, warning it could "shut most of Scotland."
Unite members at Grangemouth in Scotland will walk out for 48 hours from 7am on 0ctober 20 over the treatment of Stephen Deans.
The site's owners Ineos have launched an internal investigation into Mr Deans, who was involved in the dispute over the selection of a Labour candidate in Falkirk.
Mr Deans, who is chairman of Labour's constituency party, was suspended by Ineos, then reinstated.
Unite accused Ineos of refusing to take the dispute to the conciliation service.
Unite's Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said: "Unite has made every effort to pull Ineos back from the brink but at every opportunity this company has kicked our proposals for peace into touch.
"We have pleaded with Government ministers in Westminster and Holyrood and the joint owners of the Grangemouth refinery Petrochina to help reign in this reckless company before it's too late.
"A damaging strike may shut-down the Grangemouth site, with serious ramifications for fuel production and supply throughout Scotland and the North of England."
Ineos said it will immediately start putting its safety procedures in place to ensure the site can be safely shut down and will redouble its attempts to negotiate an end to the dispute.
Chairman Calum MacLean said: "Unite's decision to strike is completely irresponsible. Unite could effectively shut much of Scotland. Discussions have certainly not been exhausted.
"We told them that we would be willing to go to Acas at the appropriate time but rather than negotiate t hey prefer to strike.
"We will do all we can to minimise the harm this Unite strike does to the people of Scotland and the North of England. We have high fuel stocks in the refinery and a contingency plan to use the site as an import terminal to bring additional fuel in by sea if necessary."
Ineos recently launched a survival plan for Grangemouth, warning that the site will close by 2017 without investment and reduced costs.
The company said it was losing £10 million a month.
Officials said the investigation into Mr Deans will be completed by October 25.
Unite received an overwhelming mandate for strike action from the workforce, with 81.4% voting for walkouts and 90% for other forms of industrial action, on an 86% turnout.
A work to rule and overtime ban has been in place this week.
Mr Rafferty said: "Ineos management knows full well that we have twice requested that they join us for talks at Acas. On both occasions, it was Ineos who rejected the offer.
"The company also dismissed the findings of the local inquiry into Stephen Deans, as well as the decisions of Police Scotland and the Labour Party. Had they accepted the local outcome to the investigation we would not be in this position now.
"We have offered transition talks on the security of the site. Again, the company rejected this offer.
"We have offered safety cover at the site should strike action come to pass, and our members' expertise to put the plant into hot standby so that it can return to full working as soon as possible. Again, this was rejected.
"It is difficult to believe that Ineos is interested in a negotiated solution to the problems before us but for the third time we now offer to attend talks with the company at Acas. We are ready to go there at any time."