Unite convenor Mark Lyon was sacked by Ineos at Grangemouth last week.
His dismissal follows the resignation three months ago of another Unite convenor, Stevie Deans, after a witch-hunt based on collusion between Ineos, the police, the media and the Tories (with some assistance from people in Labour).
According to a statement issued by Unite:
“Mr Lyon’s sacking comes in the face of significant medical evidence that he is suffering from a serious stress-related illness as a result of the treatment he has endured at the hands of the company.”
“Unite believes that Ineos was determined to rush through a disciplinary process against Mr Lyon, denying his legal representatives the appropriate time to prepare his defence.”
“Mark Lyon has been subjected to a grotesque mockery of the disciplinary system which saw him tried in his absence. While he attended a doctor’s appointment, his employer was sacking him on trumped up charges.”
According to the Scottish media, the pretext for Mark’s dismissal was that he failed to stop Unite from issuing press releases last year which criticised Ineos for threatening to axe jobs at Grangemouth.
Clearly, Ineos thinks that the role of a company union convenor is to represent the company in the union rather than vice versa.
When the witch-hunt of Stevie Deans began last year the workforce threatened to walk out on strike. When the witch-hunt resumed later in the year, the workforce voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.
But now, although Unite is initiating legal proceedings for a claim of unfair dismissal, there is no strike ballot. This is not surprising: one element of last year’s “deal” between Ineos and Unite was a no-strike agreement of three years’ duration.
With Ineos exploiting the no-strike agreement to sack a union convenor, there is no reason why Unite should feel bound to “honour”’ that agreement. Even so, strike action appears to have been ruled out as a viable option.
Although it is no substitute for industrial action, Labour MPs and MSPs have tabled an Early Day Motion condemning Mark’s dismissal and demanding his reinstatement.
Scottish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont has issued a statement condemning the dismissal. Scottish Labour Party deputy leader Anas Sarwar has issued a similar statement.
Mark’s dismissal raises yet again the extent to which inequalities of economic power undermine formal democratic rights.
Last year Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe threatened to lay waste to local communities unless Unite accepted his demands for cuts in the terms and conditions of Grangemouth employees, and unless the Westminster and Holyrood government provided him with more financial subsidies.
This year Ineos is exploiting its gains of last year in order to sack an elected representative of the workforce, even though he is accountable to his members for his actions, not to Ineos.
Apart from ensuring that MPs and MSPs back the motions, Unite members attending this year’s Unite policy conference should also back the motion submitted by a Glasgow branch which calls on the conference to:
“Commit Unite the Union to campaign for the nationalisation without compensation and under workers’ control of all Ineos assets in the UK.”
“To make campaigning for this demand a major focus of Unite campaigning in the run-up to the next Westminster and Holyrood elections, including by withholding support from any candidate who does not support that demand.”