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.