Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 12:57 UK

Talks resume over refinery strike

A petrol tanker at the tanker depot at the INEOS refinery at Grangemouth
A petrol tanker at the depot of the Ineos refinery at Grangemouth

Negotiations aimed at resolving a dispute which could shut down Scotland's only oil refinery have resumed.

Officials from the Unite union have been meeting bosses from Ineos at the conciliation service, Acas, in London.

Up to 1,200 Grangemouth workers plan to strike on Sunday and Monday over plans to change their pension scheme.

The company has begun shutting down the refinery, which processes 210,000 barrels of oil a day.

The strike was voted for in response to plans by Ineos to end its final salary pension scheme for new workers and to make other changes.

These included the introduction of contributions to the pension scheme from the workers.

As the prospect of strike action grows nearer, contingency plans are being put in place across the country.

CalMac warning

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne is warning it may start restricting services from Thursday if the planned action goes ahead.

CalMac said if no solution was reached by Wednesday evening, it would begin a programme of reductions to conserve fuel supplies.

But a spokesman said none of the islands would be left without a service.

ScotRail, which gets all of its fuel from Grangemouth, said it is monitoring the situation closely.

Ineos said it had made a number of concessions to the union which it said represented a "significant improvement" on its initial proposals.

But officials at Unite said there was nothing new in the company's statement, adding that the union continued to press for the proposals to be withdrawn.

After more than five hours of talks at Acas on Tuesday, union officials said the negotiations would continue on Wednesday morning.

'No choice'

The bitter row which preceded the talks has resulted in Ineos taking legal action over comments made by union officials.

The company said Unite had claimed that Ineos had stripped 40m from the Grangemouth pension fund.

"This is an extremely serious allegation and is completely untrue," an Ineos statement said.

"We have asked Unite to retract their statement but they have refused to do so.

"We therefore have no choice but to issue court proceedings in order to protect our reputation and to establish that the allegation is untrue."

Governments on both sides of the border have urged the two sides to continue negotiations in a bid to avert the strike.

They have also warned the public against panic-buying fuel in fear of supplies running short.

A spokesman for the United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association, which represents oil marketing and distribution firms, said he did not believe the situation in Grangemouth would affect supplies of home heating oil to householders.




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