There has been strike action at Grangemouth which has resulted in the total shutdown of its petrochemical plant. Those on strike seem determined to bring the business to its knees, put over 1,000 workers on the scrapheap and wreak havoc on a local community. Such is the recklessness of this selfish act, the entire refinery employing 10,000 people could now be in jeopardy.
And the guilty party? Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe.
Ineos, which runs the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth, is the fourth largest chemical company in the world and the largest privately owned company in Britain. Ratcliffe is the majority shareholder and, through his chairman, issued an ultimatum to workers: Accept wage cuts, shift pattern changes and the closure of the final salary pension scheme and we’ll invest £300million into making the plant a success. If not, we’ll shut it down permanently.
It is quite something to see a multi-billion pound company, with profits of £7million last year and tax savings of £100m annually by relocating its HQ to tax haven Switzerland, plead poverty in one of the most lucrative industries in the world. According to tax expert Richard Murphy, who has criticised the company’s accounting practices, Ineos could make profits of £500m by 2017.
Other experts agree the picture is far from bleak for Ineos. Wolverhampton University Professor Roger Seifert, who has been following the dispute since day one, pointed out that oil companies like BP, which used to run the plant, have been selling off their refinery and related businesses over the last few years. He said: ‘As a result companies like Ineos have been able to buy up these facilities at a good price on the basis that they can run them at lower operating costs.
‘This may mean some improved management, but also cutting unit labour costs through reductions in pay, pensions, and conditions of service.’
Mr Seifert accused the company of ‘holding a gun’ to the head of the union, by first victimising Unite rep Stephen Deans last month and now by threatening members’ jobs.
Although the union may now agree to the changes to terms and conditions in a last ditch attempt to save members jobs, Mr Seifert added: ‘The obvious solution…is to bring the entire activity into state ownership. This would secure its future and jobs. It would allow Unite to negotiate changes in terms and conditions within a framework of future operational security, and allow the SNP to provide an example of putting Scottish workers before multinational companies.’
Think tank Left Economic Advisory Panel coordinator Andrew Fisher questioned why the plant was in private hands in the first place. He said: ‘As the oil refinery on which much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England is reliant for its fuel, the question is why was Grangemouth ever in private ownership?
‘In the long term there is no sensible alternative to our essential infrastructure being brought in public ownership to guarantee that people’s lives are not subject to the whims of reckless out of control bullies like those at Ineos.’
A Facebook page set up only yesterday called ‘Take Grangemouth into Public Ownership’ has over 4,000 ‘likes’, with many posting stories about the famous ‘work-in’ led by Jimmy Reid and the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in the 70s, where workers took over production of their factory when its owners shut it down.
With one eye on breaking into the market in China, Ineos’s behaviour is a classic case of offshoring or capital flight. You could also call it capital going on strike in order to make short term profit with no concern for the havoc and damage it will do to the local community in Grangemouth or the national infrastructure in Britain.
The debate about public vs private ownership will not disappear as Grangemouth’s fate hangs in the balance.
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry