BP tanker drivers from the Grangemouth oil refinary last week come out in a 72 hour strike action against cuts to pay and pensions. In a militant show of force workers from Unite are determined that they will not back down in a dipute against an obscenely rich company that regularly makes around £1 billion profit per month. The attacks on pensions see some workers threatened with losses of up to £13 000 per year and most workers are also faced with current cuts of £1400 per year to their pay.
The dispute arose due to an aviation contract being switched from BP to DHL but given that BP have also recently profited from the Government’s cuts to Corporation Tax, workers are furious that their pay and pensions are getting attacked while fat cat company directors have never had it so good. The strike began at 4am on Friday 22nd of February with workers taking 12 hour shifts on the picket line. While this first stage of industrial action concluded on Monday none of the workers were expecting the bosses to come back to the negotiating table any time soon and so they are resolute in their determination to take a futher 4 day strike action beginning on Thursday 28th February at 4am.
The antagonistic and arrogant attitude of the management has hardedned the resolve of the workforce. Shop stewards have been made to wait before negotiations while management have at the last moment decided to go for lunch first. But the workers are aware of their powerful position in negotiations as 10 million litres of fuel normally leave the refinery every day so the despute is costing BP tens of millions of pounds. The fact that BP are willing to take this hit shows how scared they are of the possible example of a victorious strike boosting the confidence of the rest of the Grangemouth workforce, many of whom have also faced cuts to pay and conditions.
This important strike, like many others recently has hardly gained a mention in the mainstream media which is incredible and disgraceful given its importance in almost everybodies day to day lives. With a work to rule and overtime ban also apllied when workers return, supplies to airports and forecourts will soon start running very low. Aware of their strength, workers know that management will soon have to negotiate with them and that the union’s militant action has given them a stronger hand. The recent victory of Tesco truck drivers has given confidence to other drivers to defend their conditions and if this crucial strike against one of the UK’s biggest global corporations is successful it will be a vital shot in the arm for the trade union movement and millions of workers also threatened with cuts to pay, pensions and conditions. This dispute highlights that it’s the workers who create the wealth in society while the capitalist bosses just steal the profits. Workers on the picket line summed it up when they expressed the sentiment that they don’t need the bosses in order to survive but they certainly need us. (By Philip Stott)