The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 2nd May 2008




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Lead 

OIL WORKERS STRIKE SUCCESS


by Daphne Liddle

AT DAWN
last Sunday in Grangemouth striking refinery workers marched out of Scotland’s largest oil refinery carrying red and white banners of the giant union Unite as they began their 48-hour strike, the first in the site’s 80-year history.

 The dispute is over a management decision to close the company final-salary related pension scheme to new entrants, raise the pension age from 60 to 65 and raise employee contributions.

 This has been a trend among occupational pension schemes over the last decade, with most companies claiming they can no longer afford final salary schemes after falls on the stock exchange.

 But those falls are now by and large recovered and Ineos, the company that owns Grangemouth, is making record-breaking profits from rising oil prices. It can easily afford to continue its commitment to a proper pension scheme.

 The strike by 1,200 workers meant the refinery had to be closed down in stages beforehand and put back on line in stages afterwards, so that supplies were disrupted for several days.

 This effectively turned off oil supplies to Scotland and the north of England and led to fears of a fuel crisis.

 Last minutes talks aimed to avert the strike at the arbitration service Acas failed. A spokesperson for the union said: “Unite’s negotiators were disappointed with the company’s refusal to withdraw controversial pension plans and, therefore, the two-day strike will go ahead.”
 
adverts

The striking workers took out advertisements in the Scottish media on Monday to explain the reasons for the strike. In the advert the Unite Phil McNulty said: “A lot of untruths have been peddled about the reasons for this strike. Our members have been accused of being greedy and irresponsible but this strike is not about getting more money from their employer or an attack on the ordinary people of Scotland.

 “The Grangemouth workers are having to strike to defend their existing pension scheme which, despite the fact it is well-funded and in profit, their hugely rich employer, Ineos, wants to close it.

 “We wanted to explain directly to the people of Scotland that our members’ actions are not taken lightly and are intended to get Ineos to stop its attack on their pensions and is not in any way directed at them.

 “Our members have been shown huge understanding and support from their compatriots thus far and we hope that we can rely on that continuing.

 “Unite is proud to be representing its members at the Grangemouth plant.”

 At the weekend hundreds of people from Grangemouth joined workers at a rally at the refinery to show their support for the strike. They were joined by local MP, Michael Connarty and MSP Cathy Peattie.

 Nearly 60 MPs have signed up to an Early Day Motion tabled by Michael Connarty MP, adding their support for the Grangemouth workers and expressing their concern at the aggressive tactics employed by Ineos’ management.

 Also at the weekend the Pensioners’ Convention Scotland condemned Ineos’ action as the latest in a long line of corporate attacks on retirement benefits.

 “Fair-minded citizens will understand absolutely why the Grangemouth workers are striking. This is just the latest in a long-line of corporate swipes at workers’ pensions and it must be resisted,” said George Henderson, chair of the National Pensioners Convention Scotland and vice president of the TGWU Retired Members’ Association.

 “Companies close their final salary schemes to protect themselves from stock market volatility, but it is a callous and cynical move particularly when set against the rewards the private sector chief execs give themselves.

 “So we salute the Grangemouth workers as they resist this attack on their occupational pension. They are the latest in a long line of workers, stretching back to the pension pioneers of the 1890s, who are prepared to stand up and fight for dignity and financial security in retirement.”
 
huge impact

The strike had a huge impact and now the union and workers are considering their next moves in the dispute.

On Wednesday, after talks, Unite and Ineos issued a joint statement: “A meeting was held in London today between Jim Ratcliffe and Tom Crotty of Ineos and the joint general secretaries of Unite, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley.

 “It was a constructive and meaningful discussion and ended in a proposal that will be considered by the company and the union in the coming days with a view to finding a resolution to the pensions dispute.”

 *************

Editorial

May Day!

MILLIONS of working people celebrated May Day across the world this week. In the socialist countries it’s a holiday celebrating international labour; in the struggling world where the unions are part of the liberation movement it’s a festival of solidarity and in the imperialist heartlands, not least of all in Britain, it’s a day of demonstrations of the organised working class to raise the demands of the class in struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression. 

 May Day is a day of solidarity and a time for reflection, when we pause to remember the first modern May Day back in 1886 and the fight for the 8 hour day. It ended in the murder of six strikers by the police in Chicago and the deaths of eight police a few days later in a bombing during a union protest in the city’s Haymarket Square. Eight trade union leaders were arrested and four convicted on trumped up charges and executed by the State of Illinois.

Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fischer were executed by the State of Illinois in 1887. In 1889 the First International, the International Working Men’s Association, declared May Day an international working class holiday to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs and the red flag, representing the blood of working class martyrs – the martyred dead of  Labour’s anthem – was adopted as the international symbol of the working class.

We’ve come a long way since then. We’ve seen the Great October Russian Revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union; the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan that led to the founding of people’s democracies in Europe and in the countries that smashed the chains of colonialism in the post-war era. We witnessed the tragic counter-revolutionary wave that destroyed the USSR and the socialist states of Europe in the late 1980s and now we’re part of the fight-back for peace and socialism that is sweeping the world of the 21st century from Venezuela to Nepal.

Just a few years ago the imperialists were bragging that socialism was “dead”. Francis Fukuyama, the American neo-conservative bourgeois philosopher, who helped draw up the “Project for the New American Century”, was going around bragging that the struggle between ideologies was largely over, ending so he thought with the victory of bourgeois “democracy” that would pave the way for the “new world order” led by US imperialism. Now Professor Fukuyama is having second thoughts. He now believes the Iraq war was a mistake. He has distanced himself from the neo-con doctrines he once embraced as the American dream of world domination dies on the streets of Baghdad and the mountains of the Himalayas.

As the imperialist world totters on the brink of a great depression it’s clear that capitalism cannot solve the problems of the world. Capitalism cannot feed, clothe or educate the billions of the world nor can it stave off the ecological disaster that is largely its own creation.

Socialism is the only answer. It’s a fact that all the wealth of Britain and all the wealth of the world is produced by workers slaving away in the fields and mines and factories. What is also true is that, outside the remaining socialist countries, working people receive only a miserably fraction of the wealth that they produce every day of their lives.

Only socialism can end this. That’s why we remember and celebrate May Day – to unite and fight for workers rights and the communist ideal. Only through socialism can the will of the masses, the overwhelming majority of the people, be carried out. Only socialism and mass democracy – not the sham democracy of the bourgeoisie or the myths of the social democrats – can end the class system and free working people from their slavery.
 
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