The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 2nd May 2008
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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
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
“Our members have been shown huge understanding and support from
their compatriots thus far and we hope that we can rely on that
“Unite is proud to be representing its members at the Grangemouth
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
Also at the weekend the Pensioners’ Convention Scotland condemned
Ineos’ action as the latest in a long line of corporate attacks on
“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’
“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
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
“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
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
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
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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