Unite, Britain's biggest union, is urging Jim Ratcliffe the majority owner of Ineos to put an end to the "sinister" victimisation of Stevie Deans, the Unite senior shop steward at Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland.
The union says that a 'culture of fear' is settling at the site, reflected by the targeting of an innocent man and attempts to intimidate workers out of taking action to support a long-standing colleague and loyal co-worker.
Ineos placed Stevie Deans under unwarranted investigation reputedly because of issues that arose resulting from Falkirk Constituency Labour Party (CLP), of which Mr Deans is the chair. He could be sacked if the company rules against him.
It is now a matter of fact that Stevie Deans did nothing wrong within Falkirk CLP as it worked to select a Labour party candidate to replace the disgraced Eric Joyce as MP. This was made clear by the Labour party on Friday 6 September and more importantly by Police Scotland in August. An internal Ineos investigation also found that there was no case to answer by Mr Deans.
Unite is deeply concerned that, irrespective of these facts, Ineos is continuing with a sinister campaign of victimisation against an innocent employee. The union has repeatedly made clear to Mr Ratcliffe and his HR team that it views their actions as nothing other than the victimisation of a trade union representative, and that this will not be tolerated.
Unite is currently balloting over 1,000 members at Grangemouth for industrial action in support of Mr Deans and his unfair treatment by his employer. The union, which has had reports from workers that the company is attempting to intimidate workers into voting against action, has called upon the company to cease these acts and allow a free and fair ballot to ensue.
The Ineos refinery, which sits on the Firth of Forth, is the only refinery in Scotland and is Scotland's main fuel supplier. The plant powers the Forties pipeline which is connected to the oil fields in the North Sea and supplies 30 per cent of the UK's North Sea oil.
Unite met with John Swinney SNP cabinet secretary for finance, employment and sustainable growth last Friday (13 September) to urge the minister to put pressure on Ineos management to end the campaign of victimisation.
The union has also held meetings with BP, which owns the Forties pipeline, and is writing to Petrochina which has a 50 per cent stake in the Ineos refinery, to urge the stakeholders to get Ineos to return to peaceful relations with its workforce.
Pat Rafferty, Unite Scotland regional secretary, said: "This is nothing other than a sinister campaign to victimise and hound Stevie Deans out of his job. He is an innocent man, and has been a loyal worker for 24 years at this site.
"Despite being cleared of all allegations by the Labour party, Police Scotland and even Ineos themselves, Mr Ratcliffe will not accept that there is no issue here.
"We can only conclude that he wants to break Unite at Grangemouth and will stop at nothing, whether it is the sacking of an innocent man or putting Scotland's fuel supply into jeopardy, to do so. This is extremely dangerous which is why we are working exceedingly hard to bring some much-needed common sense to this situation.
"Unite will not tolerate an attack on its shop stewards, so we are balloting for industrial action. If this attack is allowed to go ahead the company will come back for more, so we urge our members at Grangemouth to stand up for their union, Unite.
"This unjustified case against Stevie Deans must be dropped and we want a return to industrial peace. We have urged the Scottish government, BP and PetroChina to help broker peace and persuade Jim Ratcliffe to see sense. We cannot understand why Mr Ratcliffe would put the smooth running of this vital plant, Grangemouth, at risk."
Unite is currently balloting its members at Grangemouth for industrial action. The result of the ballot is due on Friday 27 September.
Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland's largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.