Michael Wilson condemns the Unite Union’s aims and tactics in the Grangemouth affair
Over the past week, it became clearer that the dispute at the Grangemouth Refinery was one that escalated to absurd levels. Both INEOS and the unions are at fault, as they both could have ended this either earlier, or on better terms. The behaviour by Jim Ratcliffe, INEOS Chairman and CEO has been utterly despicable: but so has that by Stephen Deans, the disgraced Unite convenor at the plant, who is also accused of vote-rigging in the Falkirk Parliamentary candidate selection for Labour earlier this year.
It seems abundantly clear to me, that INEOS’ claim of a ‘necessary’ pay freeze and bonus scrapping, due to financial constraints, was entirely falsified. The company made £2 billion profit in the last financial year. Sales went up by 50%, operating profits by 56%, and turnover by 20%. Ratcliffe even spent the afternoon relaxing on his £130 million yacht just hours after freezing pay for minimum-wage earners at the site. Such blatant money grabbing is morally corrupt and inherently abhorrent.
However, the dispute would not have started had it not been for one man: Stephen Deans, once again, is at the heart of the affair. When INEOS rightly suspended him for misuse of company resources, Unite effectively held 800 jobs to ransom in order to save his; a blatant display of how disconnected union bosses now are.
They don’t care about workers on the ground any more – only about their political capital and influence within the Labour Party. They’ll do anything to sustain it, and Deans has always been a prime arbiter of this goal. Back in Falkirk, he was accused of rigged the candidate selection process in an atrocious subversion of democracy which rocked the party to its core. He was even reported to have been signing up some of the people from the Grangemouth plant, which is why the management launched an investigation into him.
This behaviour within Unite is a clear harking back to the vile militancy which the union sanctioned back in the 70’s and 80’s. The daughter of another director says she received a “wanted” poster for her father at her home. They even approached children in the street and asked them to join the protests. Such actions verge on lunacy, and show exactly why Miliband has been right to question the union’s power in Labour in the past, and provides a clear case for him to continue doing it.
Unite claims that they were exercising the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. But when they threaten families and children in a vile attempt at political point-scoring, over a dispute that they started in the first place, they have crossed the line.
Yes, INEOS are at fault here too. They could have afforded not to implement pay freezes and bonus cuts. However, the main blame does and must lie with Unite, who have shown such a contempt and disgust for all members of society, working-class and not, who don’t agree with their bully-boy tactics and political aims – which mostly involve filling the pockets of McCluskey and Co whenever possible. Unite may call INEOS bullies, but it is another case of pot-calling-kettle-black, as they hypocritically throw their own toys out the pram and resort to violence when words will do.
In the Grangemouth dispute, only one thing really is clear: INEOS aren’t the only bullies.