How long will the commendable political consensus at Holyrood and Westminster over a settlement to the Grangemouth dispute last? The gravity of the situation has not been lost on the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, or First Minister Alex Salmond.
The temptation to score points over the importance of the refinery and petrochemical complex, and its importance for the oil industry, must have been great. But it has been resisted in the joint quest to promote either a negotiated settlement or the finding of a buyer to help prevent a collapse of Scotland’s industrial sinews.
Eddie Barnes (“Grangemouth bombshell”, 24 October) has shown how local political shenanigans in the Falkirk area can turn into a crisis for the national economy.
Unite as a trade union must be reflecting on whether it was appropriate to launch a defence of union convener Stephen Deans and his alleged political activities in the plant. The SNP has rightly held back from launching a charge that internal Labour politics has helped provoke an industrial crisis.
It would be wrong, however, to put the Ineos decision to close the petrochemical facility down to this matter alone. It may well have brought to the surface the underlying concerns about the changing economics of the industry.
It is right that Unite should accept that difficult situation and agree reluctantly to the new terms the company has offered. The survival of Grangemouth can then ensure that next year we can vote on Scotland’s future knowing that its industrial and energy future has a strong underpinning.
In the accusations and counter-accusations surrounding Grangemouth we should not forget the catalyst for all this was the Unite threat to strike over the treatment of Stephen Deans, one of its members who was involved in the choice of replacement Labour candidate for disgraced MP Eric Joyce.
Unite’s attempts to influence the choice of candidate is a severe warning to the Labour Party. That on top of its cackhanded approach to industrial relations in an industry with high salaries but overcapacity brings into question its suitability to represent the workers in Scotland.
Ineos is a global company with no allegiance to Scotland. It has too many processing plants for market requirements and Grangemouth is not making a profit. Why should it retain it over another plant which is making less of a loss or even a profit?
If Scotland wants to retain a refinery and processing complex then it can only do so if it can compete.
With higher feedstock costs the only way to reduce production costs is either through increased efficiency or cutting the wage bill.
While neither of these is palatable to a union which is more of a socialist crusade than an organisation representing workers, they are the way things are.
We lost a possible Ford plant in Dundee back in the 1980s when the unions couldn’t decide which organisation would represent the workers and there are countless examples of union intransigence bringing companies down.
The words “British Leyland”, now in history, are a reminder of union incompetence. It would be better for the workers of Grangemouth if they were represented by a union which had no political aspirations but instead worked with the management to ensure that the plant and the jobs continue.
The workers deserve better than the grubby machinations of Unite and its highly paid full-time staff who are not going to be out of a job if Grangemouth closes.
Gairloch, Wester Ross
The Ineos petrochemical plant at Grangemouth has closed with the loss of more than 800 jobs.
The Unite union has belatedly put new proposals to Ineos to allow the plant to remain open. Pat Rafferty should have been looking after his members’ jobs instead of grandstanding.
The clues were not hard to find. A non-contributory pension scheme with a deficit of £200 million and the company paying in £30,000 per employee.
Losses of £5m a month, yet Rafferty refused to negotiate any reduction in the £1,000-a-week salaries or agree to pension changes. In effect, he persuaded his members not to back the proposed survival plan which would have kept them in employment albeit at lower salaries. Pat Rafferty, not the company, is the real villain here.
Then, of course, there is the refinery which is at present shut down, and losing £100m a year, and could close permanently in December unless the 570 workers agree to accept new contracts and a “no strike” undertaking. I suggest that they tell Pat Rafferty to stop posturing and accept the conditions suggested.
We should not forget that most of the output from the Grangemouth site, including the petrochemicals, produces greenhouse gases when burned (eg fuels for road vehicles).
Consequently, it is actually part of the climate change problem. So how does the Scottish Government reconcile its wish to keep the plant open with its carbon reduction target?