AN INQUIRY is indeed needed into the situation which developed at the Grangemouth refinery (your report, 18 November).
However, that inquiry should have as its focus, not the Unite union representing a skilled workforce operating a key national strategic resource, but rather the form of ownership which allows one person, or company or corporation, to effectively hold a workforce, a community and two governments to ransom.
The inquiry should look careful at owners who seem willing to declare a key strategic resource worthless, expatriate their companies and demand preferential loans as protection from the threat they have contrived and issued to a timetable rather than a trade union’s attempt to ensure that a constituency has the opportunity to elect to parliament an MP who will stand up for the pay and conditions of the workers who drive the prosperity of the local economy.
I smell a rat and, unlike that deployed by Unite protesters in their campaign against Ineos, it is not inflatable.
IT IS a matter of serious concern when groups of people decide to demonstrate outside someone’s private residence. The cause of the protest may be that someone has discovered that a local authority has decided to house a sex offender there; it may be that people have discovered that an elected member is supporting a cause of which they disapprove; or it may be that trade unionists have found out the private address of a director or manager involved in a controversial decision about the future of their company.
All are fraught with dangers.
One advantage of the new inquiry under Bruce Carr QC into industrial relations (your report, 18 November) is that it may discourage trade unions such as Unite from pursuing “leverage” tactics until the report is published. It might be easier, however, if that union simply decided now that such efforts are irresponsible, and abandoned them altogether.
I note that Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable only agreed to the inquiry because it would also look at employer practices such as “blacklisting”. But there can be no direct parallel drawn between that device and “leverage”.
It may well be possible in law to prevent an employer drawing up a written list of people it does not wish to employ.
It would be naive to think, however, that a host of informal methods could not be used to ensure that an employer never takes certain individuals on to their books. By contrast a demonstration outside people’s homes is visible – they can be frightening and intimidatory. They have no place in a society that wants to promote personal privacy, a semblance of social order, and the responsible conduct of industrial relations.