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Unite makes last-ditch bid to save Grangemouth jobs

Grangemouth's workers call bully-boy Ineos bosses' bluff

Grangemouth's workers have called bully-boy Ineos bosses' bluff by saying they are willing to accept cuts if owners back down on an brutal closure threat.

Around 800 workers at Scotland's Grangemouth Petrochemicals were left reeling on Wednesday when chairman Calum MacLean told them his board was laying off the entire plant.

The company - part of the multinational Ineos empire - has blamed the closure on the workers' refusal to accept a "survival plan" of drastic cuts to pay, pensions and employment terms.

The Unite union representing the workers had bitterly opposed the scheme, but said they would accept it in full so long as the company reversed its decision to close the plant.

The new deal would see Grangemouth's workers lose their final-salary pensions, while wages would freeze and bonuses would be scrapped entirely for four years.

Meanwhile they would also endure cuts to shift allowances, overtime pay, holidays and redundancy terms.

It is understood the union's officials will meet with Ineos management again behind closed doors this morning.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who arrived at the plant yesterday for a meeting with local shop stewards, told reporters there was "nothing humiliating" about the concession: "We're not going to allow 800 jobs to go and Grangemouth to become a ghost town.

"We have a situation whereby a company has put down an ultimatum and we have to respond. It is not how we engage in modern day industrial relations.

"My union is engaged with thousands of companies every day to negotiate plans to save jobs. There is nothing humiliating about negotiating plans to ensure jobs and communities are safe.

"This plant is on cold shut down and each day that goes by makes it harder to start back up again, which is why the stewards made the offer to the company, so that we can get people back to work," he said.

Ineos's director of corporate affairs Tom Crotty would not say yesterday whether the plant would reopen.

The company would consider a new poll of its shareholders - not least Ineos's billionaire founder and two-thirds majority owner Jim Ratcliffe.

The complex on the Firth of Forth is the biggest industrial site in Scotland, while parent company Ineos reported operating profits of £265 million in the last quarter of 2012 alone.

Around 1,350 people on Grangemouth Chemicals' payroll work on the site, along with around 2,000 contractors. Local business groups say thousands of jobs in the regional economy rely on the plant.

The company has also hinted at closing the adjoining oil refinery unless it carries out the cuts, citing the cost of a £300m capital investment plan to convert the refinery to process shale gas.

But earlier this week the shale-hungry coalition government's Treasury officials reported the company had now "pre-qualified" for a government infrastructure guarantee - meaning the taxpayer would shell out for any losses investors may suffer.

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