By Martin Kelly
A Labour MP has controversially accused the UK Government of colluding with the owners of the Grangemouth petro-chemical plant in order to exert pressure on workers.
Michael Connarty, whose constituency includes the plant which is at the centre of a major dispute, said the plant owner may have been involved in “collusion with [the UK] government to store up supplies so he can take on the workforce and break them”.
Earlier in the day, the Labour MP had accused the company of deliberately planning a cold shut down of the refinery and of holding a knife to the workers and a “gun” to the “head of the Scottish people”.
However in a later session, the Labour MP openly accused the UK Government of colluding with the refinery’s owner in a bid at exerting pressure on the workforce and called for a “debate on collusion”.
The allegation of collusion follows mounting anger over a decision by the owners of the plant to shut it down after its representatives walked out of talks with the Unite union despite the union having withdrawn its threat to strike. The plant is crucial to the fuel needs of Scotland and the North of England, supplying eighty per cent of the fuel used.
The dispute between management and the union has prompted First Minister Alex Salmond to meet with both sides in an attempt at finding a resolution. However there appears little hope of any immediate agreement to a dispute that is growing increasingly rancorous.
This evening it emerged that the company had issued what it termed an ‘offer’ to workers that included a pay freeze and an end bonuses until 2016, and a twenty five per cent cut in shift allowance.
Unite responded by describing the terms as a “cynical blackmail of workers”. Ineos has also demanded an end to the final salary pension scheme.
Ineos Grangemouth (UK) chairman Calum MacLean said: “This is D Day for Grangemouth.
“The site is safely closed whilst we consult the workforce. If we can get the changes we want, the company has committed to investing a further £300 million in the site which will help secure its long term survival.”
The company has claimed the plant made a loss of £579m between 2010 and this year. However an accountant commissioned by Unite to examine the claims said Ineos had employed special accounting measures to make things look bad.
First Minister Alex Salmond today underlined the seriousness of the situation when he revealed he had held talks with both sides in the dispute.
Addressing the SNP conference in Perth, Mr Salmond said: “What I will attempt to do is to take and build on that belief, and say to both Unite and Ineos that only by negotiation, cooperation and agreement can we get an effective resolution.
“We believe, and Scotland believes and expects, that Grangemouth as an industrial facility has a great future.”
The First Minister added: “Governments can’t make agreements” but said he hoped that by meeting both sides it would, “encourage the circumstances in which agreements can be found”
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