Ineos out!

Time for an obligatory post on the Grangemouth strike against private equity pirates Ineos – which has made an impact before it’s even started – and since others have already said it better than I ever could, prepare yourself for some excessive quotation…

The strike is definitely going ahead, according to Unite general secretary Tony Woodley, speaking at a mass meeting yesterday:

Speaking before addressing a mass meeting at the plant, Woodley said: ‘There’s no possibility of withdrawing the strike action. We need to understand what we’re dealing with here.

‘We’ve got a company that is owned by a multi-millionaire close to being a billionaire. We’ve got a company that is cash-rich with a pension scheme that is also cash-rich.

‘We’ve got a pension scheme that is viable and we’ve got a pension scheme that the company has already cut its own contribution to by 30 per cent for the last couple of years.

‘And in spite of all those reasons they still want to remove the scheme for new starters and I believe eventually remove it for all of our members and we are not prepared to accept that, not under any circumstances.’

David Semple remarks of Ineos, in an excellent post on the dispute:

This is the same company, owned by Jim Ratcliffe, that tried to extort £300 million pounds from the government with the threat of 133,000 job losses. Most of Ratcliffe’s rapid expansion has been funded by debt, according to speculation, in an era when liquidity was much more readily available. The credit doesn’t seem to have affected expansions though.

Ineos can fund a seventy million pound expansion in France and ten times that amount in Scotland, but it can’t fully fund the pension scheme it had previously agreed with its employees. In fact, according to Unite, Ineos has pilfered £40 million from the pension scheme as well as slashing it’s own contributions. It’s all very well to make these arguments in a period of financial success but even worldwide economic collapse wouldn’t mean we should accept cuts in workers’ wages.

As John McDonnell has posted,

This dispute cannot be charicatured in the usual way by the media as a group of selfish workers striking out of self interest. These workers are striking to prevent their company’s pension scheme being undermined for future workers joining the scheme. They are standing up to protect the pensions of future generations of workers in their industry.

Gordon Brown is currently supposed to be writing another of his books on heroes and heroism. I suggest that he includes a chapter on the selfless sacrifice of the Grangemouth heroes who have had the courage and determination to stand up and fight to protect for the pensions of workers yet to come.

Perhaps Brown will have a lot of time on his hands in the next few months in which to get writing…

Ian has some comments pilfered from the BBC’s comments section of their site, which are supportive of the action being taken. And there’s a good summary of the dispute at the Socialist Appeal website, by the way.

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Why don’t you save all the money you earn?

As the song goes, If I didn’t eat, I’d have money to burn!

It seems that rather than exceeding inflation, pay rises are lagging far behind:

Pay rises have remained stable at 3.5% in recent months, but settlements might be heading for a “fall”, according to a new report.

Average awards have been 3.5% since the end of last year, but a study of 70 agreements this month showed the figure had fallen to 3%.

Fewer than one in three rises were higher than the previous year, said pay specialists IRS, while increases in private firms were around 1% higher than the public sector over the past year at 3.5%.

Sheila Attwood, of IRS, said: “Our sample of April pay awards clearly shows that pay awards are receding at a faster rate than headline inflation.

“More pay awards are worth less than a year ago, and Gordon Brown seems to be succeeding in keeping a lid on public sector awards.

“The fact remains that pay awards are some way below RPI inflation and not providing for a real increase in pay for many employees.” [Emphasis added]

And the year-on-year pay cuts are having an impact:

More than four in ten UK employees are considering quitting their job in the next year, YouGov research for Investors in People suggests.

A lack of motivation at work is cited as a major problem, with unreasonable workloads, feeling underpaid and a lack of career path being blamed.

About half of staff said they had not been supported beyond their initial induction at work.

After Fightback Thursday, a change of direction for Labour?

If the write-up in the Financial Times is anything to go by, yesterday’s co-ordinated fightback was a success. Quoth the FT:

A wave of industrial action hit the UK on Thursday, closing or disrupting a third of all schools in England and Wales as the first national teachers’ strike for more than 20 years coincided with stoppages by street cleaners, college lecturers and the coastguard.

The Socialist Worker gets to the heart of the dispute:

The issue of pay has united workers from several trade unions to fight back together. But pay is just one factor fuelling growing anger across the country.

The strike takes place as the government is in disarray, after its attacks on working class people have produced a level of anger that means today is the biggest blow yet to the attempt by Gordon Brown impose below inflation pay on millions of public sector workers.

As John McDonnell says, the Brown administration is in a position of weakness:

It is becoming increasingly clear that this Government is close to a political tipping point. New Labour continues to alienate section after section of our support and the political situation is now perilously close to being irretrievable. By turning on its own movement and supporters New Labour is handing government over to the Tories.

McDonnell and the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs are usually alone in opposing New Labour, but the threat of losing office has given the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party a shock, and more are willing to resist New Labour’s unpopular policies.

If Labour does badly in the local elections next week, there could be a crisis within the Westminster party. Already bruised by the doubling of taxes on low-paid workers, the leadership be forced to give up on plans to introduce 42 day pre-charge detention for terror suspects, something which is entirely counter-productive to combatting terrorism.

The crisis would be as much within the New Labour clique as the wider party – the possibility exists that those who were loyal to Blair during his tenure as Prime Minister will field a candidate against Brown in a leadership contest.

In which case, would the socialist and social democractic factions of Labour be able to overcome their differences and field a pro-worker candidate?