The union official at the centre of the Grangemouth dispute has resigned from his job at the plant, leaving the Labour Party facing growing pressure over its relationship with Unite, Britain’s biggest union.
Stephen Deans, the union’s convener at the plant, had allegedly devoted a significant amount of his time at the Grangemouth plant to working on Labour Party business. He had been implicated in the row over the controversial selection of a Labour candidate for the Falkirk constituency, when a Labour Party investigation was opened then closed after evidence was withdrawn.
Ineos, the owner of the Falkirk plant, said Mr Deans was told the results of a company investigation last week. He was due to meet with bosses later today, but announced his resignation ahead of that meeting.
A statement from Ineos yesterday said: “Mr Stephen Deans has today resigned from the company with immediate
effect. The company has conducted a thorough investigation into Mr Deans’ activities over the last 18 months and made Mr Deans aware of these findings last week.
“Mr Deans requested an additional five days prior to the final disciplinary hearing to allow him time to provide any further relevant information.
“The company was due to meet with Mr Deans again tomorrow but has now received his resignation.”
Mr Deans was suspended by Ineos following his involvement in the controversial selection of a Labour candidate for the Falkirk constituency.
Unite voted for strike action over his treatment, which led to the shutdown of the site.
Although the strike was called off before it took place, the fall-out sparked a dramatic escalation of events that nearly led to 800 jobs being lost.
After a vote by workers to reject new pay and conditions, Ineos said the petrochemical side of the site was to shut. It was saved at the 11th hour after the union climbed down.
Although the dispute was resolved last Friday and the future of the plant secured, the row over Mr Deans’ political activities on company time continued.
The company presented the union official with a cache of e-mails which allegedly indicated he had helped derail a Labour inquiry into vote-rigging in the selection process to replace Eric Joyce as the party’s parliamentary candidate in Falkirk.
Ineos reportedly found Mr Deans had spent up to 25 per cent of his work time organising Labour matters – the company paid him to work as a full-time union convener, representing members at Grangemouth. About 1,000 e-mails from the Ineos investigation were put before Mr Deans last Thursday.
Details of the investigation have been handed to police.
The latest developments have piled pressure on Labour leader Ed Miliband to reopen an investigation into the selection process in Falkirk, after allegations Unite had packed the constituency party with its supporters in an attempt to have its favoured candidate chosen.
Mr Deans and Karie Murphy, Unite’s choice to replace Mr Joyce, were suspended by Labour as it investigated the allegations earlier this year.
But the inquiry was closed last month after key witnesses withdrew evidence that suggested they had been recruited to Labour as part of a drive by Unite to cram the constituency party with supporters who would back its preferred candidate. Both Mr Deans and Ms Murphy were reinstated.
However, Ineos proceeded with its own investigation into Mr Deans’ activities.
That inquiry, conducted by lawyers acting for the firm, reportedly found a draft of the party activists’ retraction letter, which was sent to Mr Deans for him to get it signed by Michael and Lorraine Kane. They were witnesses who had initially complained to the party against Mr Deans and Ms Murphy.
A Scottish Labour spokesman said last night: “We understand this information has been handed to the police. It is right to let that process take its course. After that process is complete, we will decide whether further action is necessary.”
Unite said it would not comment until officials meet its members at Grangemouth. But the union has previously hit out at “unjustified attacks” it has suffered over the vote-rigging allegations, saying police and Labour had investigated and found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “This sorry saga has brutally exposed the unhealthy closeness of Labour and Unite. The idea that the ego of one man could almost bring down an entire industry in Scotland is shameful, and Labour merely stood by and allowed it to happen.”