Grangemouth refinery – A real worry that Unite nearly lost its own member’s jobs.

The BBC web site has a detailed report on the ‘saving’ of the refinery today.

As a former trade union officer I really do worry that the crisis at Grangemouth was one that was brought on by oil/gas market circumstances, a long-running internal industrial relations dispute and probably Unite, in trying not to blink first, almost ensuring that its own members lost their jobs.

Falkirk and Unite ring a bell as well over the huge Miliband/Unite dispute over the section of Labour’s parliamentary candidate recently so a heady brew of trouble was inevitable.

We British don’t do industrial relations well; it seems to be in our make up to do all we can to ensure that we don’t do industrial harmony! Of course, it is our ‘us and them approach’ that is fundamental to this industrial relations dysfunction.

But what if Unite was in effect making things worse? What I mean is were the Unite leaders more concerned with beating the Grangemouth management than they were about preserving as many jobs as possible? Sadly, this has to be a worry because British trade unions are more than capable of not seeing or ignoring the big issues in a dispute especially if they are being driven by socialist idealism.

Independent analysts seem to be pointing to the non-viable nature of the refinery in its present form and that fundamental restructuring of the oil refining business is required not only at Grangemouth but across the whole industry. On that basis were Unite simply unwilling to negotiate on the reality of that situation? If they were they were very wrong and they seem to have had to climb down a long way. They must have lost a lot of credibility with their own members but will they learn from this damaging dispute?

I do despair at times with the trade union movement as it can often be its own worst enemy.

Labour V Unite in Falkirk and maybe 40 other constituencies

To me as long-term trade unionist there was a certain inevitability to this very public war between Labour and its biggest trade union backer. It goes back to comments I have made before about the trade union movement not knowing how to respond effectively to austerity and the fact that with the next election being only a couple of years away Labour is starting to reposition itself to the right.

Trade union barons are almost always on the hard left these days and they thought that having put Ed Miliband in as Labour Leader he needed more hard left Labour Parliamentary candidates in place to keep him honest with them. Ed, of course, knows that left wing views don’t win British general elections as Tony Blair showed with his Christian/Social Democrat approach.

The trade union movement has spent generations trying to grasp the Labour Party and keep it where it wants it to be as an openly common ownership socialist party. When Labour is in opposition they always start off saying things that fit with the left but as each general election approaches they shunt over to a more right wing agenda. The trouble is that both the trade union movement and Labour Party know this dance around happens on a regular cycle but each thinks they will win next time. The trade unions are, of course, the ones who are always disappointed.

Talking of Unite, they may have had influences in/over the Sefton Central Labour Party if leaks from within this troubled constituency Labour Party are to be believed. Maybe Labour would care to enlarge on the extent of Unite’s influence in this constituency?