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.
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
Contagion: How the Crisis Spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How Empire Struck Back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en Vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally