Petroineos Grangemouth refinery workers vote for industrial action

27 September 2013 17:56  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Workers at Petroineos' 210,000 bbl/day refinery in Grangemouth, the UK, have voted in favour of industrial action, trade union Unite said on Friday.

Unite, the UK's biggest union, attributed the vote to a decision made by INEOS Petrochemicals UK, a subsidiary of Switzerland-headquartered INEOS, to place Stephen Deans, a trade union representative and member of the local Falkirk Constituency Labour party (CLP), under investigation.

90.6% of voting Grangemouth employees cast ballots in favour of industrial action short of a strike, and 9.4% voted against. A total of 81.4% voted in favour of strike action, and 18.6% against, with one spoilt ballot paper. 86% of site employees took part in the vote, Unite added.

INEOS Petrochemicals UK responded that the investigation into Deans was to determine whether his activities - regarding conduct in the replacement process for departing Labour MP Eric Joyce - were in line with his role as an employee and union representative at the Grangemouth site.

Unite claims that Dean did nothing wrong within the Falkirk CLP during the election of Joyce’s replacement, and that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Labour party investigation, concluded in early September.

INEOS retorted that its own investigation into the allegations would be concluded by 25 October, and that it should be allowed to complete it without outside interference. It added that Dean has been re-instated at Unite’s request while the investigation ensues.

INEOS Petrochemicals UK expressed disappointment at news of the outcome of the employee vote, stating that any industrial action could lead to closures and job losses at the site. Unite accused the company of “playing Russian roulette” with the Grangemouth site.  

The company said earlier this month that it would close the Grangemouth petrochemicals facility unless it can stem losses at the site and obtain necessary investment to upgrade it to utilise cheaper shale gas feedstock supplies.

Calum MacLean, INEOS Petrochemicals UK chairman, said that the site is losing around £150m (€179m, $242m) per year at present and is currently posting a £10m monthly loss, exacerbated by an estimated pension deficit of £200m.

At present, the site is insufficiently competitive to justify the cost of upgrading the infrastructure for shale-derived ethane feedstocks, as the company is in the process of doing at its Rafnes, Norway site, MacLean added.

In July 2011, PetroChina completed a $1bn purchase of a 50% stake in INEOS’ European refining operations. The deal included INEOS' refineries in Grangemouth and in Lavera, France.

By: Tom Brown
+44 208 652 3214

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