Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 17:25 UK

Refinery strike 'risks supplies'

Grangemouth
Unions are planning a two-day walkout in 10 days time

Planned strike action at the Grangemouth oil refinery which unions say could disrupt fuel supplies poses a threat to safety, it has been warned.

The Unite union claimed the walkout on 27 and 28 April could disrupt fuel supplies to garages and airports across the country.

But operator Ineos said it was "deeply concerned" about the union's cavalier approach to safety.

Unite said up to 1,200 workers would strike over pension changes.

The action is in protest at plans to close the final salary pension scheme to new workers and reduce provision for existing members.

This is the only possible sanction against a company prepared to make such an audacious attack against our members
Phil McNulty
Unite

A ballot of Unite members showed a 97% vote in favour of industrial action.

The union said that petrol supplies could be severely disrupted by the strike and it could also hit North Sea production for weeks.

National officer Phil McNulty said: "We are outraged by the company's plans to close the final salary pension scheme when it has taken 40m from the scheme and slashed its own contributions."

Mr McNulty said the scheme was still highly profitable and claimed the Grangemouth site makes an estimated 1m every day - making the pension scheme one of the most secure in the country.

"Industrial action is never desirable but this is the only possible sanction against a company prepared to make such an audacious attack against our members," he added.

I'm deeply concerned that the Union is putting other issues ahead of safety
Tom Crotty
Grangemouth CEO

Local Labour MP Michael Connarty hit out at the firm.

He said: "Ineos has shut production units and are determined to attack the conditions of service of the workforce, which is wholly unacceptable.

"The pensions agreement has always been part of the deferred income of the workers in Grangemouth and it is entirely unacceptable that the company should try to make the workforce and their families pay for the company's investments."

Ineos said it had been told by Unite that its members would not provide safety cover during the planned strike and had told plant managers they had just 10 days to remove all oil and gas from the plant and make the site safe.

The company said this was a "physical impossibility".

Tom Crotty, Grangemouth CEO, said: "I have written to Mr Tony Woodley, Unite's joint general secretary, expressing our concerns.

"Ineos has always prioritised site safety, and I'm deeply concerned that the Union is putting other issues ahead of safety."

The firm also warned that strike action would threaten the future prosperity of the site and might ultimately lead to the loss of hundreds of highly skilled and well-paid jobs.

It said the action was particularly frustrating for Ineos given that the nine month consultation process had not been completed.

Ineos acquired the site from BP in 2005 and is now the biggest privately-owned chemical business in the UK.


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