Commentary on Grangemouth

Workers leave the meeting at Grangemouth oil refinery in Falkirk, Scotland

Since my last post on the Grangemouth situation the news has been so fast and furious on the topic, while I has been travelling around and was unable to correct inaccuracies that had become apparent in light of the new material. I was in the middle of writing a post to address this when I was passed this fantastic article by Penny Cole over on A World To Win. Wile I may disagree with some parts, the views on what to do here and now are definitely something we share.  In particular:

“The Unite members were ready to fight and their union could have organised an occupation to prevent the dismemberment of the plant, but they did not and will not. Independence will not change that.”

Too true.

At the point at which I wrote the last article the bosses threat of lock-out had not been clear. In light of that the call for workers to take control of the site seems even more vital. Unite hasn’t been “conned and set-up” by Ineos as much as it has been by their own bureaucracy and it’s tired and predictable way of reacting to the bosses. This, along with the union’s willingness to cave in to keep the peace at their members expense, has been a huge disservice to everyone at Grangemouth.

Also the SNP have been only too willing to play into the hands of the bosses. The thought that a Scottish government will be any friendlier to workers, the unemployed or anyone else is an assertion without any backing. The state will always behave in the interests of the state. Holding hope that someone else can fix things for us is only going to lead to half-measures and the disappointment. It is only by building up our ability to take action together at the heart of the problem that will give us any real measure control of our lives.

The way in which the unions and the politicians have behaved is not the victory for common sense that is being billed; it is a stitch-up against all of us as a class. The people on the shop floor know their business better than any union bureaucrat, better than any politician, and better than any boss. We should learn the lessons from this fight and stand in solidarity with workers at Grangemouth and beyond, lending them support where we can and taking their lead on how to fight this struggle, and to hell with anyone that stands in their way.


5 responses to “Commentary on Grangemouth

  1. I watched with dismay at the lack of fight and understanding of the enemy in Grangemouth. The Unite members were lured into a planned fight by Ineos and the Unite leadership allowed this to happen. After a big success against the Blacklisting Construction Industry through leverage campaigns we have to ask the question how was Jim Ratcliffe allowed to destroy the Grangemouth workers T&C’s with such ease, also getting funding from both UK and Scottish Governments????

    As a Unite member I felt humiliated at the lack of an organised approach to this dispute. Also it seems that the Scottish Regional Secretary Pat Rafferty was totally undermined by Len McCluskey. The mantra “we are a fighting back Union” is now farcical . What we have is a structure in our Union that mirrors the corporate structures and is most definitely not in touch with it’s grass roots members. What ever happened to occupation? Nationalisation? Why did Len McCluskey not put pressure on a Scottish Government (who claim to have some sort of affiliation to Jimmy Reid and the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders) to get round the table for talks on Nationalising the Grangemouth Plant. Where was the leverage campaign on this dispute?

    Time for a new dawn in Unite.

    This part of the BBC article on Grangemouth sums up my feelings.

    Who won? Well, of course, Grangemouth did, and its workers and the wider Scottish economy. Politicians showed they can put differences aside to act as peacemakers and Jim Ratcliffe

    Jim Ratcliffe founded Ineos 15 years ago
    Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos emerged from relative obscurity to become poster boys for global capital. The firm secured a bundle of sweeteners from governments, BP (easing the terms of its supply contract) and, of course, from workers.

    And who lost? Workers made sacrifices on pay and more so on pensions, but the humbling was for their union, Unite.

    Red top notoriety
    The employers had asked for a no-strike deal for two months. What they got was three years, along with everything they sought on pay and pensions.

    The union lost all that, when it hadn’t even fought over it. Instead, it chose to make a stand on a disciplinary matter, letting it become entangled with much wider demands from employers, then rushing calamitously into provoking the shut-down with a strike date.

    The disciplinary issue, affecting union convener Stephen Deans, still isn’t resolved, though it was due to be completed on Friday.

    But it’s worth noting the Ineos ‘survival plan’ was firmed up to ensure that the Grangemouth complex will have no further full-time union conveners.


    In Solidarity

    Peter Watson

  2. “The Unite members were ready to fight and their union could have organised an occupation to prevent the dismemberment of the plant, but they did not and will not.”
    Sorry, wishful thinking on your part. Half the workforce were ready to settle before any ultimatum . The workers were not sheep, If they didnt agree with the recommendations of McCluskey, they could have put forward an alternative but they didnt. They were demoralised and they themselves could not see any alternative. That is not to say McClusky could not have called for nationalisation of the plant but do you really think tens of thousands of trade unionists were ready for a massive political and physical battle with a hostile state ?
    There is no comparison with the UNITE leverage campaign in construction. That was mainly carried out by full time union “organisers” who were bussed from site to site to hold demonstrations. Support from rank and file building workers was minimal with numbers being made up by left wing paper sellers and retired or blacklisted members. It cost hundreds of thousand of pounds and took nearly 12 months to get one man reinstated under a secret agreement. The national blacklisting fight took even longer and involved the law and the Labour Party as much if not more than trade union militancy or rank and file activity apart from a few dedicated activists.
    The settlement is terrible but without a strong rank and file and a more confident membership it is too easy to blame the leadership. Did you notice any rank and file protests at the settlement at Grangemouth ? All we heard were cheers that their jobs were saved.
    False optimism is as bad as false leadership. Rebuild the rank and file and shop stewards movement and support all campaigns for the nationalisation of energy and transport. We need to win a few battle with our rulers before any group of workers will have the confidence for a major challenge to the state and major multinationals like Ineos.

    • This post raises the question of why the workforce are in that state, and what the unions role in creating this situation has been. Up to now Unite (and the other trade unions) have been quick to dampen any militancy and show that it is something that they can manage. They have been happy to break the bonds of solidarity between different workforces as long as their place at the table was kept.

      I’m in agreement that we (as a whole class) need to get victories to build confidence tho if I remember rightly the last large-scale industrial action in the UK, the fuel blockades back in 2000, where supported by the rank and file at Grangemouth. We also can’t ignore that the Unite bureaucracy is acting in its own interest and not those of the workers.

      EDIT: Oh, I forgot about the 2009 Lindsay wildcat strikes which workers at Grangemoth took part in and won back almost 300 sacked staff and an agreement of non-retaliation by bosses.

  3. Pingback: Commentary on Grangemouth | Bristol Anarchist Federation

  4. Pingback: Another year for the locust: an attempt at a review of 2013 | Cautiously pessimistic

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