Sunday, 2 April 2017

Debacle of a Dispute



The Sunday Herald has a great story today on a row that has broken out over Unite's handling of the strike against Ineos at Grangemouth which almost led to the giant plant closing down.

Now this was a debacle of a dispute by any standards yet the Unite leadership defends its behaviour by trotting out the ridiculous line that a union rep carrying out Labour Party work in his employer's time is perfectly acceptable.

I imagine very few Unite members in Scotland agree with such nonsense or the union's decision to call a damaging strike in defence of behaviour that was so clearly  wrong.

Instead of facing the music at an Ineos disciplinary hearing the local union rep resigned from his job and is now working as a full-time official with Unite.

Meanwhile the prospective Labour candidate at the centre of the Falkirk 'vote rigging row Katie Murphy, reportedly a 'close friend' of Len McCluskey, is working in Jeremy Corbyn's office.


 


http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15197939.Row_erupts_between_McCluskey_challenger_and_Unite_s_Scottish_leader/

Row erupts between McCluskey challenger and Unite's Scottish leader


Unite Scotland 1 SA

By Paul Hutcheon - The Sunday Herald

A contender to be the next general secretary of Unite has sparked a huge row with the trade union’s most senior Scottish official over the notorious Falkirk débâcle in 2013.

Gerard Coyne, considered the main challenger to Len McCluskey, said Unite’s role in the infamous Labour candidate selection row, and the subsequent industrial dispute at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, had a “retrograde” impact on members’ terms and conditions. He also said it was a “classic” case of “messing around” in local politics.

Returning fire, Unite’s senior Scottish official Pat Rafferty launched a withering attack on the leadership candidate, accusing him of trying to “trash” the union and preferring the company of sections of the “hostile media” to his own union members.

Debacle of a Dispute (25/03/17)



The Herald reported the other day that the local union activist who was at the heart of the great Grangemouth dispute is now working as a full-time official for Unite.

Now people much higher up Unite's food chain were responsible for calling this foolish and unnecessary strike, but as the election for Unite's general secretary get underway I thought I'd remind readers that this was far from being the trade union movement's finest hour. 

  

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15166435.Union_organiser_at_heart_of_Grangemouth_dispute_is_now_fronting_Faslane_strike_row/

Union organiser at heart of Grangemouth dispute is now fronting Faslane strike row

Stephen Deans

By Paul Hutcheon - The Herald

THE trade unionist who was at the centre of the most bitter industrial relations dispute of the last decade is now the key figure in a strike at Scotland’s nuclear base.

Stephen Deans was described by former Prime Minister David Cameron as a “rogue” trade unionist during the discord at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant. He is now a regional officer for Unite and represents civilian staff at Faslane, which is home to Trident, and at the nuclear warhead storage facility at Coulport.



Unite Debacle (23 April 2014)


Unite's handling of the Grangemouth dispute last year was widely seen as inept, even within the trade union movement, but for reasons best known to itself Unite seems determined to draw attention to the debacle all over again.

Now to recap the dispute started with the claim that the local Unite convener, Stevie Deans, was being victimised by his employer, Ineos, and the union called a strike in support of their local representative.

But as the affair dragged on and threatened the closure of the plant, Ineos claimed that Mr Deans had been abusing his time off arrangements, by devoting much of his time to Labour Party business, instead of representing the direct interests of his own members.
   
And when push came to shove Mr Deans resigned from his job rather than face the serious charges of which he had been accused.

So why Unite would want to rake over the coals of this disastrous dispute is beyond me, although Paul Hutcheon is on to a good story with the following piece in The Sunday Herald. 


Unite-Ineos relations plummet as union considers Labour candidate proposals



THE Unite trade union is considering plans to withhold support from Labour candidates unless they back a campaign to seize the assets of the company that owns the Grangemouth oil refinery.

In a sign of worsening of relations with plant owner Ineos, Unite will debate whether to link backing for Labour at Westminster and Holyrood with support for nationalising the company's operations without compensation.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said it was clear the union had a "stranglehold" on the party.

Unite's shambolic attempt at influencing Labour's Westminster selection contest in Falkirk, in which the union signed up over 100 new members in a bid to help their favoured candidate, had huge political ramifications.

The sign-up, which was linked to the Ineos plant at Grangemouth, was criticised by Labour leader Ed Miliband and led to the party rethinking its links with all its trades union affiliates. It also spiralled into a major industrial dispute.

Ineos accused Stevie Deans, at that point the plant's shop steward and Unite Scotland's chair, of using company time and resources to work on Labour Party business.

That row led to Unite backing strike action and was followed by Ineos threatening to close Grangemouth. The employer also insisted on swingeing changes to workers' terms and conditions. High-level political interventions led to a last-minute agreement between Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe and Unite, but the dispute left the union feeling wounded and Deans out of a job.

It also cost the Scottish economy an estimated £65 million.

The Sunday Herald can reveal Unite will reopen the Ineos issue at its UK policy conference in June. A copy of the preliminary agenda contains a motion signed by two Scottish branches.

It condemns the "threat by Ineos's Ratcliffe to shut down operations in Grangemouth" and noted that it was "unacceptable" for "one individual to be able to wield such power".

The motion also commits Unite to "campaign for the nationalisation without compensation and under workers' control of all Ineos assets in the UK".

It called for this demand to be a "major focus" of the union's campaigning in the run-up to the next Westminster and Holyrood elections, including "withholding support from any candidate who does not support that demand".

Unite is the biggest union donor to Labour, but the party has not come close to backing calls to seize any of Ineos's assets.

A Labour source said: "You can understand why Unite have concerns about the ownership of Ineos, but they clearly have not learned any lessons from Falkirk if they think the solution is to hold a gun to the head of Labour candidates. It is crazy."

If passed, the motion could result in only a handful of left-wing Labour candidates receiving funds from Unite and starve Miliband of resources. It would also hamper Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont's bid to become the next First Minister in 2016.

The row between Ineos and Unite was one of the most bitter industrial disputes in years. The company was accused of treating the plant's workers in a brutal fashion, while the union was believed to have over-played its hand by backing strike action.

Another motion to the conference, from branches in the northwest of England, calls for Unite to cut the money it gives to Labour.

Murdo Fraser said: "It seems that no matter what Ed Miliband and the Labour Party say, the unions still have a stranglehold on the party.

"With their massive funding of the party they are always going to have a significant influence, including the selection of candidates.

"Despite the Grangemouth dispute costing the Scottish economy £65m, the unions do not appear to have learned any lessons."

A Unite spokeswoman said: "It is in the preliminary agenda. It will have to go through due process before being debated and could well change."

She added: "It will be for conference to decide."

An SNP spokesperson said: "It is of course a matter for trades unions which candidates they wish to support and for what reasons, but this resolution obliges Johann Lamont to set out exactly what Labour policy is."

An Ineos spokesman declined to comment, as did a Scottish Labour spokesman.

'Kamikaze' McCluskey (10/07/16)

Image result for mccluskey + BBC images


The boss of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, issued the following statement after talks collapsed over Jeremy Corbyn's continued leadership of the Labour Party:

“I am dismayed at the statement issued by Tom Watson announcing his withdrawal from talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the Labour party.
“Extraordinarily, I received no notice of this statement before it was issued. I had made arrangements for a meeting of trade union leaders, Tom Watson and representatives of the PLP and the party leader for tomorrow, arrangements requested by Tom Watson and his colleagues, specifically for Mr Watson’s convenience. 
“In that context, when the possibility of a workable plan had never seemed closer, Tom Watson’s actions today can only look like an act of sabotage fraught with peril for the future of the Labour party. 
“I must clarify one point in Tom Watson’s statement; I made it absolutely clear from the outset of these discussions that Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as the leader was not on the agenda. Watson knew that, and it is entirely wrong to suggest that any public statement by Jeremy represented any change in the situation. This is a deeply disingenuous manoeuvre.
“I will continue to work with trade union colleagues and others to chart a way forward, including meeting the legitimate concerns of Labour MPs.”
Now if McCluskey had already made plain that Corbyn's position as leader was 'non-negotiable', then the talks were doomed from the outset, the vast majority of Labour MPs (from all  wings of the party) having concluded that Jeremy is simply not up to the job.
So it's worth remembering that Len McCluskey's style of leadership almost led to the closure of the giant Ineos plant at Grangemouth after Unite foolishly called a damaging strike over a local union steward who was called to account for carrying out work for the Labour Party during his employer's time. 
   


Resign! (26/09/15)


Image result for jim murphy and len mccluskey

The Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy won a vote of confidence (17-14) at the Scottish party's executive committee the other day, but decided to stand down nonetheless because of the wrecking tactics of his most vocal critics, including Len McCluskey the boss of the Unite trade union.

Unite has wasted £14 million of its members money in donations to the Labour Party since Ed Miliband became leader in 2010 and last year the union called a disastrous strike at the giant Ineos plant in Grangemouth which almost cost thousands of Unite members their jobs 

So why doesn't Len McCluskey follow his own 'lead' and resign as the Unite general secretary because by any standards he's done a lousy job after accepting that the vast majority of Unite members in Scotland supported the SNP in the general election, having deserted the Labour Party in droves over recent years.

Jim Murphy gave Len McCluskey both barrels in announcing his decision to resign and has pledged to table a report of proposed reforms to the Scottish Labour executive next month.

Here's what he had to say:

“It is clear that a small minority who didn’t accept my election as leader of the Scottish Labour Party just five months ago won’t accept the vote of the executive today and that will continue to divide the party.

Today I received more support in the executive vote than I did from members of the executive when I stood for election five months ago.

When I table that report at next month’s meeting of the Scottish Labour Party executive, I will also table my resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

It will be for the party executive to decide whether it accepts the reforms proposed, but a party in such urgent need of reform blocks those changes at its peril.” 

The Labour Party’s problem is not the link with trade unions, or even the relationship with Unite members - far from it.

It is the destructive behaviour of one high profile trade unionist.

One of the things about stepping down is that you can say things in public that so many people in the Labour Party only say in private.

So whether it is in Scotland or in the contest to come in the UK, we cannot have our leaders selected or deselected by the grudges and grievances of one prominent man.

The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey, and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”

Right from Wrong (26/01/14)



A number of readers drew my attention to the story below from the BBC web site in which the Unite trade union claims to have been vindicated over the 'vote rigging' scandal in Falkirk - that blew up into a much wider industrial conflict involving the giant Ineos plant and the local Unite convener, Stevie Deans. 

Now I don't know of anyone who ever accused the Unite convener of criminality because he seems like a decent enough chap to me, but there seems little doubt that Stevie Deans was guilty of wrongdoing by abusing his time-off arrangements with his employer (Ineos) - a civil not a criminal matter, of course.

In effect Ineos claimed that Stevie Deans was working on Labour Party business when he was being paid by the company to represent the interests of the workforce - and Ineos management instigated an investigation to get to the bottom of things which was duly followed by a disciplinary hearing. 

Nothing to get too excited about there, you might think, but the union's reaction was to call a strike which was a completely crazy and irresponsible move especially when the agreed procedures provided Stevie Deans with every opportunity to defend himself and explain his behaviour.

Instead the whole business escalated out of control and in the end Stevie Deans resigned from his job rather than face the charge that when he was supposed to be doing what was best for workers at Ineos - he was devoting much of his time to party politics and the internal affairs of the Labour Party.

So the real issue was never about criminality which is a complete red herring.

As the old Labour Party slogan use to say, the real issue was always about knowing right from wrong - resisting the temptation to play party politics, and refusing to take risks with people's jobs and livelihoods. 

Falkirk row: Police say 'no evidence of criminality' in Unite emails

The controversy centres on claims the Unite union tried to fix the selection of a parliamentary candidate

Police have found "no evidence of any criminality" in emails sent by a former Grangemouth union convener.

Stevie Deans, who was a full time Unite official at the petrochemicals complex, had been accused of being involved in vote-rigging in Falkirk.

He was later cleared by an internal investigation by the Labour Party.

The Unite union, which called the complaints "vexatious", said it had been vindicated in consistently saying that no wrongdoing had taken place.

Mr Deans left his job at the Grangemouth oil refinery last year and decided not to seek re-election as chairman of Labour's constituency party in Falkirk.

The Falkirk seat is held by Eric Joyce, who resigned from the Labour party and now represents the constituency as an independent.

Labour's selection process for next year's general election has been mired in controversy, with allegations that Unite members had been signed up to the Falkirk Labour Party to ensure the union's favoured candidate was selected.
Stevie Deans was at the heart of the Falkirk candidate selection claims

In September, Labour said it had cleared the Unite union of trying to rig the selection process.

It said the decision was made after "key evidence" was "withdrawn".

But in November, The Sunday Times newspaper said it had seen 1,000 emails to and from Mr Deans, which it said revealed the full extent of the plot to influence selection of the candidate.

Its story also included extracts of the internal Labour report in which Labour officials said there were "deliberate attempts to frustrate" interviews with some of the key witnesses.

Police Scotland, which earlier this year dropped an investigation into the Falkirk allegations, was called in to study the emails, which were passed on by Mr Deans's employer Ineos.

A spokesperson for Ineos, which operates the huge Grangemouth oil refinery and petrochemicals plant, said: "The Ineos investigation of Mr Deans was related to the misuse of Ineos procedures and systems.

"Mr Deans resigned prior to the final stage of the disciplinary process. The email cache was referred to the police and the information commissioner based on legal advice to protect the company."

A spokesman for the force said: "Following information received alleging misconduct by a member of staff at the Grangemouth refinery, a Police Scotland enquiry was undertaken.

"This enquiry has now concluded and there is no evidence of any criminality."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Unite has been vindicated in consistently saying that no wrongdoing or criminality has taken place and welcome Police Scotland's conclusion.

"It is shameful that the police's time has been wasted by vexatious complaints and their attentions diverted from catching real criminals and solving real crimes."

He added: "Stevie Deans is a decent and honourable man who has been smeared and hounded with a callous disregard for him and his family by those who should know better.

"The anti-union hysteria whipped up by certain sections of the media and their friends to pursue a spiteful agenda has been shocking. Their witch-hunt has been exposed to be without foundation."



Calamitous Cover Up (2 November 2014)

Dan Hodges is still a Labour Party supporter, as far as I know, although he did resign his membership of the party recently - so Dan's support is not unqualified and nor is he afraid of calling a spade as spade.

Which he does in this opinion piece about Unite and the 'vote-rigging' scandal in Falkirk - which became caught up in the nasty industrial dispute at Grangemouth that came within a whisker of the plant's closure.

Party politics and industrial relations are a toxic mixture that should be kept apart  at all times - but the events of recent weeks are damaging to all concerned and Dan Hodges is right to say that Unite's behaviour has made a mockery of Ed Miliband's pledge to be the champion of a new politics.

Unite and Len McCluskey are completely unapologetic, defiant even, about their behaviour and seem to be saying that they would do the same again - given the chance.

In other words the kind of machine politics that Ed Miliband promised to get rid of - is alive and well in the UK's largest trade union which doubles up, of course, as the Labour Party's biggest financial donor.



Falkirk's sordid cover-up damages the credibility of the unions, the Labour Party, and Ed Miliband

By Dan Hodges

Last month the Labour Party announced that it was halting its inquiry into the selection scandal in Falkirk. Over the weekend, thanks to the leaking of over a thousand emails to the Sunday Times, we know what that inquiry would have uncovered, had it been allowed to proceed.

The first thing it would have discovered is that the Unite trade union was indeed attempting to fix the selection on behalf of its favoured candidate Karie Murphy. In one of the “smoking” emails, Murphy expresses her desire for senior Unite official Stevie Deans to be elected “procedure secretary” for her ballot because it was “the best way to control the process”. Deans success in securing the chairmanship of the local party was described by Murphy in a separate email as nothing less than “a masterstroke considering the influence the chair has in a selection process”.

The second thing the inquiry would have discovered is that once Ed Miliband finally decided to take action over the scandal, Unite began to draw up a strategy to force the Labour leader to back-off. One idea the union came up with was to try to drag former Prime Minister Gordon Brown into the affair by getting him to intercede with his successor directly. One email from Howard Beckett, the Union’s director of legal and membership services, suggests “We will prepare for an approach to Gordon Brown wherein we ask Gordon to consider the potential damage this could do and request GB [Gordon Brown] do contact Ed M[iliband] in private”.

A second idea was to start drawing up information to smear Unite’s internal opponents. In another email Beckett wrote “Comms will prepare the nasty stuff we know of individuals in the Labour Party”. In the end, neither the approach to Brown, nor the plan to smear Unite’s opponents, were acted upon.

The third thing the inquiry would have discovered is how Unite directly intervened in the evidence of those who had claimed to witness attempts to rig the selection ballot. In particular, Unite focused on evidence supplied by members of the Kanes family, who were at the heart of allegations that people in the constituency had been signed up to the Labour Party without their consent.

Howard Beckett agreed to draw up “statements on behalf of the Kanes rebutting allegations in the report as to what they are alleged to have said”. He added that “Stevie [Deans] will arrange for these to be signed”. In response, Deans wrote “I’m happy with the draft letter and can get this to the Kane family and get it posted tonight”.

It appears that it was this letter, in which the Kanes claimed “We have no complaints against either Stevie Deans or Karie Murphy”, that was the catalyst for Labour for terminating its investigation, and reinstating the Deans and Murphy to the Labour party.

There is one other thing the inquiry would have uncovered. Alongside the ballot rigging, and the plan to pressure the leader of the Labour Party, and the alleged manipulation of evidence, it would have found that throughout the whole affair the Unite union lied, and lied and lied again.

The union said it had not been involved in attempting to fix the selection, when it had. It said it wanted an open investigation into the allegations, when in truth it was drawing up a strategy for getting Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to back off from investigating. It repeatedly claimed it had nothing to hide. But in fact it had lots to hide, not least over a thousand damning emails.

Back in June, when the scandal first broke, Ed Miliband gave a solemn pledge. "Let nobody be in any doubt, there is only going to be one outcome to this: the Labour Party will act in a way that upholds the integrity of our party, the integrity of our party members and the integrity of ordinary trade union members. I will not allow the good name of the Labour Party to be undermined by the behaviour of a few individuals,” he said.

This morning it’s not the good name of the Labour Party that is on the line, but that of Miliband himself. Unite have made a mockery of him, his party, and his pledge to be the agent of a “new politics”.

Labour sources point to the fact that Karie Murphy has withdrawn her name from consideration for the seat. And the Falkirk constituency remains in “special measures”, effectively in control of national party headquarters. A Labour spokesman said “Information has been passed to the police, and it’s right and proper for us to wait and see how that investigation proceeds. Once it has been concluded we will make a judgment on whether further action is taken”.

But the Labour Party themselves passed information to the police earlier in the affair. And on that occasion it did not prevent them from running their own internal investigation, or suspending party members.

Labour’s leader must reopen the investigation, suspend the individuals at the centre of the scandal and clear up this while sordid mess once and for all. It’s no longer about the rigging of one CLP selection. It’s about Ed Miliband’s credibility as a leader, and as a potential Prime Minister.


Trust and Betrayal (29 October 2014)



The latest bombshell to be dropped in the long running Grangemouth saga is that the Unite official over whom the union called a damaging strike - has resigned from his job rather than 'face the music' of a disciplinary hearing.

Here's how the BBC reported the news on its web site, but it has to be said that this is a real hammer blow to Unite's credibility at Grangemouth and elsewhere - another sign, if you ask me, that the union is prepared to play politics with people jobs and livelihoods.

Because why would the union jeopardise the future of the plant for someone who was accused of abusing his position as Unite's local union convener by carrying out  political work for the Labour Party - when he should have been representing union members.  

Unite has been complaining for months about Deans 'treatment' by company management - the inference being that he was being victimised and treated very unfairly - yet when push came to shove the Unite convener failed to defend himself against allegations which were reportedly backed up by hundreds of damning emails sent during working time.

In other words, the company's case was that while they were paying Deans to work for them and represent the interests of ordinary Unite members at the plant - Deans was actually devoting much of his time and energies on political matters to do with the Scottish Labour Party.    

Now if I were a member of Unite, I would be extremely angry at this latest turn of events - in fact I would feel completely betrayed.

To my mind Unite owes its members, the workforce at Grangemouth (who have been through hell recently) and the people of Scotland - a huge apology for trying to make monkeys of us all.   

Unite official Stephen Deans resigns from Grangemouth job

Mr Deans had worked at Grangemouth for 24 years

The Unite union official at the centre of the Grangemouth industrial dispute has resigned from his job at the facility.

Stephen Deans had been suspended by operator Ineos over claims he used company time for union business.

Ineos had been expected to reveal the outcome of a disciplinary case against him on Tuesday.

The union previously voted for strike action over his treatment, which led to last week's shutdown of the plant.

Mr Deans declined to comment when contacted by BBC Scotland. Unite said it would not comment until officials met union members at Grangemouth.

A statement released by Ineos confirmed Mr Deans had resigned from the company with immediate effect.

It said: "The company has conducted a thorough investigation into Mr Deans' activities over the last 18 months and made Mr Deans aware of these findings last week.

"Mr Deans requested an additional five days prior to the final disciplinary hearing to allow him time to provide any further relevant information.

"The company was due to meet with Mr Deans again tomorrow but has now received his resignation."

'Rigging' claims

Mr Deans, the convener of Unite in Scotland, had worked at Grangemouth for 24 years.

He had been accused of trying to rig the selection of a candidate for Westminster in his role as chairman of the Labour Party in the Falkirk constituency.

It was claimed he signed up dozens of new members for Labour, promising the recruits that Unite would pay their membership fees on the understanding that they would back the union's choice in the contest to select a new candidate to stand for parliament in Falkirk, to replace the disgraced Eric Joyce.

Mr Deans was suspended from the Labour Party but was later cleared by an investigation and reinstated.

“Documents were handed into Falkirk Police Station and will be passed to our electronic crime unit for examination” - Police Scotland

But Ineos carried out its own investigation into allegations that some of the new Labour members had been signed up in the refinery.

The row over his treatment erupted into a vote for strike action which was eventually called off by the union.

But the threat of industrial action led to Ineos shutting down the facility last week - before later announcing the site's petrochemical plant would shut permanently with the loss of 800 jobs.

The company eventually reversed that decision after staff agreed to implement changes to pay, pensions and conditions which Ineos said were necessary to ensure the survival of the petrochemical plant and the neighbouring oil refinery.

Labour MP Michael Connarty, whose Linlithgow and East Falkirk constituency includes Grangemouth, said he believed Mr Deans had been the ''subject of victimisation''.

Mr Connarty, who is currently at a conference in Lithuania, said he would be making no further comment until he had spoken to Mr Deans.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "This is a matter between Stevie Deans and Ineos."

There have been calls for Labour to reopen its investigation into the vote-rigging allegations after the Sunday Times claimed to have seen emails showing Unite had undermined its original inquiry.

The newspaper reports claimed a fresh complaint had been made to police on Friday about the Falkirk Labour Party's handling of its candidate selection.

In a statement, Police Scotland said: "Documents were handed into Falkirk Police Station and will be passed to our electronic crime unit for examination."