Unite the union says controversial energy firm Ineos is being ‘reckless and ‘destabilising’ over pay talks for workers at its plants in Grangemouth.
The company – owned by billionaire tax-avoider Jim Ratcliffe – has given notice that it wants to tear up legal bargaining agreements with Unite the union.
The move comes after workers voted to reject a company pay offer. Unite members have had a three-year pay freeze at Grangemouth, losing around 6.25 per cent of their wages in real terms.
In negotiations, Unite was seeking a pay rise of 3.25 per cent. The company offered a 2.8 per cent increase for newer grades of staff and 1.4 per cent, with a 1.4 per cent lump sum, for staff with longer service.
The pay offer was unanimously rejected by workers in consultative votes, and Unite had requested that Ineos move the discussions to a higher level of management, in line with the existing recognition agreement.
But instead of negotiating further, Ineos now says it wants to end union agreements in the chemical and infrastructure sections of the Grangemouth plants. Workers at the Petroineos oil refinery are not affected.
Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Ineos is basically saying ‘It’s my ball and I don’t want to play’. That might be understandable from a moody schoolkid in a playground, but from a company with a responsibility for vital national assets - and to its workforce and their families – it’s reckless and destabilising.”
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “After three years without a pay rise there is bound to be difficult negotiations, but Unite’s demand for a 3.25 per cent rise is more than reasonable and our intention remains to achieve a negotiated agreement. We would encourage Ineos to think again and to row back from what is an unnecessary act of aggression towards their own workforce.
“Discussions continue in a meaningful and respectful manner with Petroineos and will resume next week.”
Unite has pledged to resist all attempts to strip workers of union representation on their jobs, pay, terms and conditions – up to and including using the law to force the company to respect the outcome of an independent ballot.
Pat Rafferty said: “This is an incredibly foolish attempt to undermine the democratic rights of Grangemouth workers, so that Ineos can be free to squeeze every last bit of profit out of their jobs, wages, and conditions.
“If there’s to be reasonable balance and fairness in the workplace, Ineos needs to recognise that workers have a right to a collective, democratic voice through their union. Employers can’t just go ahead and do what they like without consultation and negotiation.
“If Ineos doesn’t change its mind, we will simply go through the normal legal procedures, and push for an independent ballot of workers.
“When that happens, we are confident of the outcome. Workers know that the only effective way they can protect themselves is to stand strong and united in a democratic union that works for them.”
Unite was involved in two major disputes with Ineos over the treatment of workers at the Grangemouth petrochemical refinery in 2008 and 2013. During the second dispute, Jim Ratcliffe threatened to close the facility forever.
Just this week, Unite warned that Ineos’s purchase of BP’s Forties oil pipeline risked handing massive power and influence to the company, and called for inquiries into the sale at both Westminster and Holyrood.
Pat Rafferty said: “For this to come at a time when Ineos are trying to persuade the BP workforce that their Unite recognition agreement is secure with Ineos is incredible and no doubt workers in BP will reach their own conclusions.
“Ineos thinks the BP sale has given them massive power to influence government - they’ve already been caught lobbying the former Tory Chancellor for new laws to put further chains on worker rights.
“But we are confident that every politician and every right-thinking person in Scotland will oppose this attack on Unite members. We’ll be contacting economy secretary Keith Brown to discuss the situation, and underlining the fact that the Scottish government’s Fair Work Convention says workers should have a real say in the workplace.”
Notes to editors
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty on 07810 157929.
Members of Unite voted to reject a pay offer of 2.8 per cent increase for newer grades of staff and 1.4 per cent, with a 1.4 per cent lump sum, for staff with longer service. The union had been seeking 3.25 per cent. The pay offer was unanimously rejected in consultative votes at branch meetings, and Unite had requested to escalate the discussions to a higher level of management.
Ineos has given notice that it wants to end its bargaining agreements with Unite at Ineos Infrastructure Grangemouth Limited and Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth Ltd. These companies are wholly-owned by Ineos, and are separate from the Grangemouth oil refinery, which is owned by Petroineos - a joint venture between Petrochina and Ineos. Petroineos has not indicated that it wants to change its trade union bargaining agreements.
On 3 April, Unite commented on the called for the Scottish and Westminster parliaments to carry out urgent inquiries into the sale of the Forties Pipeline System from BP to Ineos.
In February, the Sunday Herald uncovered secret emails showing how Ineos lobbied the then Chancellor George Osborne in 2013, calling for a series of new laws to curb unions’ ability to strike and to reduce workers’ pensions.
Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with 150,000 members across the economy. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.