Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 16:08 UK

Quiet defiance on the picket line

By Jo Perry
Central reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery have begun a 48-hour strike in protest at changes to their pension scheme. The BBC's Jo Perry reports from the picket line.

marching unite union workers
Workers walked out of Grangemouth on Sunday morning

Small groups of strikers stand quietly huddled in the shadow of the giant refinery.

The impact of the walkout at Grangemouth by 1,200 workers is being felt far outside the 17,000-acre Ineos site.

On the drive up to the plant there are forecourts with "sorry no diesel" signs prominently placed at their entrances.

Some garages are closed off completely, empty after motorists rushed to the pumps to fill up. Fuel prices have also crept up on the days since the dispute hit the headlines.

The newspapers are filled with indignation at the 50m-a-day losses the UK economy will suffer as a result of the closure of the Forties pipeline, which is reliant on the Grangemouth plant for power.

People think we are massively overpaid and when I heard stories we were getting 60,000 a year, my wife wanted to know where the rest of the money went
Striking Grangemouth worker

The build-up to the two day strike, prompted because of a proposed change to the Ineos pension scheme, has seen a deluge of accusations on both sides of the industrial divide.

Union representatives accuse the company of greed and cynicism while Ineos bosses accuse them of intransigence and making defamatory statements.

Media's gaze

The war of words has left the gathered workers, identifiable by their high visibility vests and Unite red flags, reluctant to engage with the assembled media.

By contrast union leaders and sympathetic politicians come and go from the parked radio cars and satellite trucks to give their side of the story.

One man, who works as an engineer at the plant, said it was "very surreal" to find himself standing on the picket line with the nation's media gazing on.

Grangemouth plant
The plant has been shutdown for the two-day strike

He said: "People think we are massively overpaid and when I heard stories we were getting 60,000 a year, my wife wanted to know where the rest of the money went.

"Suddenly we have ended up with the North Sea pipeline closed down, it is just mad but we can't give up and we won't give up."

The morning's quiet pace gradually quickened when more than 150 picketers and their families congregated at the refinery's Gate No 4 for a rally.

Passing motorist

Union convenor Mark Lyons told the crowd that the workers would not be beaten.

"We regret deeply the inconvenience to the good people of Scotland, but we've been forced to make a stand. Now Jim Ratcliffe's Ineos says to us we must surrender our pensions. We say no way, not now, not ever."

His speech and those of others, including Labour MP Michael Connarty, and MSP Cathy Peattie, were enthusiastically applauded.

As the speakers shouted into the microphone, the odd passing motorist signalled support with a honk of a horn.

Then it was back to the picket line - with no sign of a resolution to the strike in sight.


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