Page last updated at 08:21 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 09:21 UK

Refinery strike talks break down

The Ineos refinery at Grangemouth
The planned strike is closing down the Grangemouth refinery

A strike which could close down Scotland's only oil refinery will go ahead after talks between the Unite union and plant bosses broke down.

Operators Ineos and the union held two days of talks at conciliation service Acas in a bid to halt the strike by workers at the Grangemouth facility.

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney told BBC Scotland there should be enough fuel to avoid shortages.

Staff are due to walk out of the refinery on Sunday.

Mr Swinney said: "What we are confident about is that we have taken preparations to make sure that there are ample supplies of petrol and diesel available well into the month of May.

"That's obviously predicated on consumer purchasing patterns remaining as we would normally expect them to be."

He added: "We also have the ability to import fuel into the bargain if we need to support the stocks that we have already within Scotland so the plans are well advanced."

The local MP, Michael Connarty, told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I have been representing these people for 16 years.

"There used to be 3,500 people on that site.

"They have taken amazing cuts in the number of staff, they have massively increased their productivity, they are printing money for this company on that site, and as part of that, the deal was you got some rewards, deferred income and you got it in your pension.

"That's entirely logical for a company that's making this kind of money.

"This is an aggressive company who are determined to cut their costs by making the workforce pay."

Pension plans

The walk out is over proposed changes to the pension scheme.

The union announced on Wednesday evening that the talks, which began on Tuesday afternoon, had failed to find a breakthrough.

The strike had been called in protest at plans by Ineos to close its final salary pension scheme to new workers and to make other changes to its pensions.

A union spokesman said: "Unite's negotiators were disappointed with the company's refusal to withdraw controversial pensions plans and therefore the two-day strike will go ahead.

"Although the strike has not been averted, Unite and the company have reached an agreement that will maintain the safety of the site and the integrity of the plant for the duration of the dispute."

Ineos has already started shutting down Grangemouth and warned of fuel shortages from later this week if the strike went ahead.

The firm said the union's rejection came hours after Ineos offered to take all changes to the existing pension scheme "off the table".

Ineos chief executive Tom Crotty meets union officials at Acas
Ineos chief executive Tom Crotty met union officials at Acas

It wanted to make them the subject of a three month discussion on the basis that both sides "would engage in meaningful dialogue" and that the strike threat would be removed.

It also wanted all future employees to join a Defined Contribution pension scheme.

Ineos chief executive Tom Crotty said: "We have done everything we can to help resolve this dispute.

"Our latest offer to suspend all proposed changes to the existing pension scheme is just another example of us bending over backwards to bring this conflict to an end.

"The plain fact is that the union seems hell bent on pursuing a strike that will cause chaos and disruption for the people of Scotland and across the UK."

A statement from Acas said that although the two sides had not come to an agreement, time had been spent addressing the issue of safety and the integrity of the Grangemouth site during the strike.

It said: "An agreement covering these issues has been reached for the period of the dispute.

"Acas has advised both the company and Unite that the opportunity to seek assistance of Acas to pursue an agreement has been offered."

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