Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Lots of chat, still on-going about Grangemouth. Sometimes these stories become so complicated and internecine - its hard to know what is fact and what is opinion. As usual, this is what some of the parties involved actually want because it masks the real agendas and objectives. Grangemouth is triply complicated: first, there is Ineos who own the site (even this is a simplification,) then you have the Unite union who are supposed to look after the interests of its members working around the site. Finally there is the Labour Party which is going through the process of finding a replacement for Eric Joyce, the out-going ex-Labour MP who got into a bit of bother for brawling in a Westminster bar.

All in, its a pretty complicated affair, J. R. Ewing would have been proud of how Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman and CEO of Ineos and his team played the situation.

Where did it start? (DM link alert.)

Probably way back when this man:

Eric Joyce MP for Falkirk West

Punched this man

Luke Mackenzie (Tory cllr)

and head butted this guy

Ben Maney (another Tory cllr.)
and 'targeted' another two Tories:

Andrew Percy was 'shoved' (Who wouldn't?)

Alec Shelbrooke was 'threatened'
An interesting side effect for the four Tories involved is that its very difficult to find images of them. 99% (a rough estimate) of images returned are of Eric Joyce, that must smart a bit, especially since Joyce is back in the limelight over Grangemouth.

But I digress.

Since then, Eric Joyce decided to stand down as the Labour MP for Falkirk West, that in turn triggered the Labour party selection process for a replacement. Enter Stephen Deans, ex-chair of the Falkirk Labour party and ex-unite union official at the Grangemouth plant. 

Stephen Deans, carrying his homework.

He has been the subject of disciplinary procedures, Ineos claimed he'd been using work hours and company resources (mostly his work's email account) to conduct a political campaign - that campaign being - to (allegedly) make sure a Unite union wo/man got the job of running for Joyce's vacated Westminster seat. Deans had been suspended from his job pending the outcome of the proceedings, the Unite union - displeased at the treatment of their man - threatened industrial action, which in turn led to the shut down of the plant. Ineos claimed that if strike action did take place the plant would need to be shut down and that was a complicated, expensive process which took time to complete. With that in mind, they went ahead and shut it down anyway and refused to start it back up until industrial action was taken off the table.

Unite subsequently did take industrial action off the table but instead of starting the plant back up, Ineos cut out the Unite union and balloted the work force directly on new terms & conditions of employment - a pay freeze, adjustments (downwards obviously) to pensions and a cut in shift allowance. The work force - advised by Unite - rejected the new T&C's and Ineos said the plant would close permanently.

(A quick point of order. Grangemouth has two separate work streams, there is a petrochemical manufacturing plant and a refinery. It was the former part that was closed, the refinery is owned by Ineos and Chinese state-owned Petrochina.)

Ineos made much noise about its survival plan for Grangemouth, Jim Ratcliffe...

...CEO and Chair claimed the site was losing £10 million every month but many commentators failed to see how a tiny saving on wages would assuage these losses, some went even further and questioned the notion the plant was loss-making at all.

Meanwhile, high level meetings were taking place to get the plant up and running again, the Scottish Government pledged actual money (a £9m grant) while Westminster ponied up some loan guarantees. Unite caved in completely, workers had no choice but to accept the new T&C's and Ineos management agreed to reopen the plant.

As you would expect, the media - ever keen to apportion blame as well as credit - claimed that without the backing of Westminster, the plant would have closed. Alex Salmond being interviewed by BBC radio four's Edward Stourton pointed out that the Scottish Government had put up real cash while Westminster got away with offering guarantees - something the Scottish Government could not do under the current devolved settlement.

The usual claims and counter claims from various papers still reverberate, in truth, it was a joint effort from both governments but indisputably led by Holyrood. What is being missed though is how the situation came to pass in the first place. Stephen Deans of Unite stood accused of subverting work resources for political campaign ends and was suspended, so Unite decided to strike. Ineos then took advantage of that to ram home changes to workers terms and conditions, using the strike as an excuse to shut the plant down.

In the aftermath, two questions still remain. How did one man heading up Ineos get to be in a position of such power, not just over the Grangemouth work force but also of an integral part of Scotland's industrial oil infrastructure? And, what is really going on in the Falkirk Labour party?

At this time, the Labour party (there is really only one, the 'Scottish' Labour party doesn't exist as a separate entity) refuse to reopen the investigation into what went on during the selection process. Unite still stand accused of coercing its members into joining the Labour party or signing them up without them knowing in order to ensure their preferred candidate, Karie Murphy, was selected to stand for Eric Joyce's seat at Westminster.

Meanwhile alleged leader of 'Scottish Labour' Johann Lamont managed to talk for around 9 minutes on yesterday's Good Morning Scotland about the Falkirk selection mess and say precisely nothing constructive at all.

There is no punch line to this, workers at Grangemouth are back earning but many contractors are not. It is still not fully known what went on, Stephen Deans might have used Ineos resources for the nefarious political ends of Unite, it in turn may have reacted far too quickly before the results of the disciplinary proceedings were known, and Ineos - in an act of wanton capitalist greed that would even have J. R. Ewing's eyes watering - took advantage of the situation to ram through its own cost cutting agenda.

Not good, not good at all.


  1. Thank you for putting such a complicated situation into such a concise and easy to read report.

    Given than Ms Lamont is the regional head of Labour, and the first one to allegedly have authority over all of the party north of the border MPs. MEPs, councillors, MSPs (a move taken to try to make the party look Scottish instead of English) why did she have nothing to do with the disciplining of Mr Joyce; the removal of his whip and the debacle that followed over the selection?

    Why given that not only is she the so-called leader of so-called Scottish Labour, but the leader of the opposition in our parliament AND a member of Unite, has she been so silent on the Grangemouth debacle?

    Why has Ed Miliband been in charge of it, and has she only appeared and commented in the last few days since her own party have started to demand where the hell she is?

    And is Lamont actually in charge of Labour in Scotland, as in 'in charge', or is she only there to order the tea and biscuits for the shadow cabinet and to look pretty?

    I have no idea how she is at tea and biscuits, but I can safely say there must be better candidates for the second part of the job description.

  2. Thanks Tris.

    These often become overly complicated, hardly anyone knows how Labour select their candidates for example and what role the unions have in it - not that I have issues with unions having a role - so long as its fair.

    Lamont is a puppet, I could have been more concise about that, as you say, in all of it she was no where to be seen. I really have no idea why anyone is fooled by the notion she's in charge.

    Eric Joyce for example, I don't imagine would ever agree to being subordinate to someone like Lamont. Despite his various issues, comparatively, Lamont is a tiny political fart in a breeze compared to Joyce.

    And finally, not that I condone violence at all. Eric Joyce's drinking habits not-with-standing, looking at those particular Tories, one can't help but limit any condemnation one had for Joyce and his actions.



Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?