Grangemouth workers say: hands off our pensions - and they are right!

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28 April 2008

Grangemouth oil refinery workers went on strike this Sunday and Monday for 48 hours over the attack on their pensions.

The refinery owner, Ineos, had announced that it would close the workers' pension scheme to new entrants from 1 August, and cut pensions for existing members.

What is more, workers would in future have to contribute 6% of their wages to the scheme - whereas before, their pension contributions were waived in exchange for wages paid below the industry average. So Ineos is now also asking workers to take a 6% wage cut!

And as if this was not bad enough, it turns out that Ineos is planning to cut the 1,200-strong workforce by half - by, in the bosses' language - "modernising", the refinery.

This attack on pensions is all the more scandalous, because, after Ineos bought the refinery from BP in 2005, it used an accounting trick which allowed it to reduce the previous estimate of the pension fund's value by 40m.

Yet despite that, today the fund is still in surplus. And even if it was not, Ineos is the world's third largest chemical group, with over 400m profit last year - so it can easily afford decent pensions for its workers! Its owner is Jim Ratcliffe, number 25 on the "Rich 1,000 List" with a personal fortune of 2.3bn!

As for the threat supposedly posed to the oil supply by the strike - something which Ineos has used as blackmail against the workers and the union - this is pure nonsense! There are 70 days worth of fuel reserves in Britain. So even if Ineos closed the refinery for a week or more, as well as the Forties pipeline, this would still not threaten supplies - that is, provided the government does its job of ensuring that the reserves are actually made available.

Above all, Ineos, echoed by most of the media, is trying to use public opinion to force workers into agreeing to this daylight robbery of their pensions. The Grangemouth workers are right not to fall for this. And they deserve all of our support.