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SIR JIM RATCLIFFE, a BBC News profile said in May, “champions the unloved.”
But fortunately for the Ineos boss — who is now moving to the tax haven of Monaco — few are more unloved than himself. Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, has amassed a fortune of £21 billion, according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.
Meanwhile, he is best known in Scotland for his savage union-busting campaign at the Grangemouth refinery in Falkirk. In 2013 Ineos hounded out Unite convener Stevie Deans, on the pretext that he had used his company email address to campaign for Karie Murphy’s selection as Labour candidate in Falkirk.
As industrial relations came under increased strain, Ratcliffe threatened to pull the plug on Grangemouth and its 800 workers altogether. The jobs were only saved when the union signed up to Ineos’s demands at the barrel of a gun.
Back then, Ratcliffe had moved his company’s HQ to Switzerland after failing to get tax discounts at home. He told the Financial Times he still felt a “responsibility towards Britain,” which presumably helped his case for a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours list this year.
Now the gong is safely on the mantelpiece, why should he stay? Ratcliffe’s support for Brexit never stopped him keeping a chateau in the French Riviera, but at least in Monaco he can legitimately claim to be outside the EU.
At the height of the Grangemouth dispute, Ratcliffe’s supporters in the anti-union press whipped up furore over Unite activists protesting outside his home.
Unite leader Len McCluskey argued: “If a company director is engaged in what we believe is an unfair attack on workers and their families and their communities, then the idea that faceless directors can disappear to their leafy suburbs and get away with that type of action is something we think is wrong.”
He was right. The faux outrage over the beastly scare this demo would give to Ratcliffe’s children was never replicated for the destitution that would scar the lives of Grangemouth workers’ kids, were their parents thrown on the dole as Ratcliffe proposed.
Writing in the Telegraph shortly after, Ratcliffe said the description of “anyone who deigns to cross the union as scabs” had “the hallmarks of bullying.”
It was an “attitude that runs absolutely counter to the values of society today, in which freedom of speech is cherished.”
So in the spirit of those oh so modern values, I won’t let Ratcliffe’s flight to the Med stop me freely expressing my sheer contempt for him and his ilk.
This vulture cabal expect us to be grateful for keeping fragments of Britain’s ailing industry going, when in fact they are bleeding it dry for their own enrichment.
Ratcliffe cuts a far more dapper figure than cartoonish Mike Ashley of Sports Direct. His businesses have flourished when Ashley’s have declined. But why should we care?
Ultimately, these men are cut from the same cloth. And until Britain adopts a proper strategy for industrial revival — with public ownership at its heart — their ransom notes will continue to win out over politicians and a country desperate for jobs of any kind or quality.
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