Scotland business

'Disappointment' over Grangemouth refinery talks

Grangemouth
Image caption The 48-hour strike is planned to begin at 07:00 BST on Sunday 20 October

The owners of the Grangemouth site have said they are "extremely disappointed" with a lack of progress in talks over a planned strike at the oil refinery.

Discussions involving Ineos and the Unite union broke up at 20:00 on Monday.

Representatives of both sides arrived to resume talks on Tuesday afternoon.

The union said it was approaching the resumption of talks at the conciliation service Acas "more in hope than any great expectation".

Members of the union are planning to walk out on Sunday in a row over the treatment of a union convener.

Staff at the plant began shutting down the facility on Monday.

Labour selection row

The dispute centres on union convener Stephen Deans, who was involved in the row over the selection of a Labour candidate in Falkirk.

Labour cleared Unite after an investigation into allegations of rigging the selection of a party candidate - claims that led to a major row between the union and Ed Miliband.

Mr Deans, who is chairman of both Labour's local constituency party and Unite in Scotland, was suspended by Ineos but then reinstated.

Ineos said an investigation by "a third party" into Mr Deans' conduct was due to be completed by 25 October.

The company criticised the inclusion of Mr Deans in the union team taking part in the Acas talks, calling it "completely inappropriate".

Calum MacLean, the chairman of Grangemouth Petrochemicals, is leading the employer's team at the talks.

He said: "We came to Acas in good faith and remain determined to resolve the issues facing us if at all possible.

"Unfortunately, Unite seems determined to insist on one rule for union officials and one rule for everyone else, which is completely unacceptable to the company.

"It also seems determined to ignore the fact that a strike could destroy Grangemouth and cause significant damage to the whole of Scotland."

Cold shutdown

Unite said the management side had imposed an adjournment on Monday's talks by leaving the meeting.

The union's Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: "We are very disappointed matters could not be progressed particularly as we presented a number of proposals in a bid to resolve this dispute and we were prepared to work throughout the night if need be.

"At this point in time, it seems Ineos management are more concerned about heading back to Grangemouth to continue with the cold shutdown of the site rather than working with us here at Acas to keep the site open.

"Further talks are scheduled for this afternoon, but we are approaching them more in hope than any great expectation."

A spokesman for the Department of Energy said that if a shutdown of the refinery went ahead Scottish fuel supplies would not be affected.

"The UK government has been working closely with the fuel industry and Scottish government to put robust alternative supply routes in place," he said.

Ineos recently launched a survival plan for Grangemouth, warning the site would close by 2017 without investment and reduced costs.

The company said the plant was losing £10m a month.

The Grangemouth refinery provides most of Scotland's fuel. It is owned jointly by Ineos and PetroChina.

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