The owner of the Grangemouth petrochemicals plant said today that almost its entire workforce of 1,350 have accepted its new terms and conditions, paving the way for a £300 million revamp of the site.
The deal follows a bitter dispute with unions earlier this year during which chemicals giant Ineos threatened to close its Grangemouth factory if workers did not agree to changes to the pension plan and other cost-cutting measures.
Ineos Grangemouth said that current salaries for the existing workforce will remain unchanged, while the acceptance of these changes represents “the next milestone” in securing the investment needed for the company to continue trading.
The firm is proposing to build a terminal to import shale gas from America which it says will make the factory profitable again.
Ineos Grangemouth chairman Calum MacLean said: “This is another important step in the rebirth of the Grangemouth site. With our costs coming under control, the shareholders are committed to making good on their promise of a £300m investment, which will allow us to build a new terminal and use US shale gas as a new raw material for the petrochemicals site”.
Ineos is also to more than double the number of apprentices and new graduate recruits it hires over the next three years. MacLean, pictured right, said: “There is now a growing belief in the future of the plant. I look forward to a new era of co-operation and teamwork at Grangemouth.”
The Grangemouth plant teetered on the brink of closure in October as workers went on strike while Ineos claimed it was losing £10m a month and the cost of employing a technician was running at £90,000 a year. But following political intervention, the Unite union agreed to accepted changes proposed by Ineos in exchange for the investment that would give the facility a new lease of life.
Earlier this month Ineos unveiled its blueprint to transform Grangemouth into the UK hub of the US shale gas revolution.
A 40-metre high storage tank which can hold 33,000 tonnes of liquefied ethane – the biggest of its kind in Europe – is at the heart of the plans and will be completed in 2016 with a price tag of £125m.
The changes will also see new docking facilities on the nearby Forth for two ships Ineos is having specially built to transport the lucrative ethane gas to Scotland.
There is also to be an overhaul of the current “cracker”, which breaks the gas down and allows it be used in the plastics, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. The changes mean other parts of the Grangemouth site will be scaled down.
The UK and Scottish governments have both bought into the future strategy, with Westminster underwriting £150m in loan guarantees for Ineos, while Holyrood has handed over £9m in regional selective assistance to the firm.