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26 February 2013
Grangemouth tanker drivers show their industrial strength
The 2008 Shell oil tanker drivers' strike was successful, photo Bob Severn
BP tanker drivers from the Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland last week came out on a 72-hour strike against cuts to pay and pensions.
In a militant show of force, these workers in the union Unite are determined that they will not back down in their dispute with an obscenely rich company that regularly makes around £1 billion in profit a month.
The attacks on pensions see some workers threatened with losses of up to £13,000 a year and most workers are also faced with current cuts of £1,400 a year to their pay.
The dispute arose due to an aviation contract being switched from BP to DHL, but given that BP has 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 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 further four-day strike action beginning on Thursday 28th February at 4am.
The antagonistic and arrogant attitude of the management has hardened the resolve of the workforce. Shop stewards have been made to wait before negotiations while management has 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 dispute is costing BP tens of millions of pounds.
The fact that BP is willing to take this hit shows how scared it is 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.
With a work-to-rule and overtime ban being applied by the drivers as well as strike action, supplies to airports and garage 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.
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 other workers 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 the bosses certainly need us.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 26 February 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
Falkirk Herald article 27.2.13:
A last-minute deal has averted further strike action at Grangemouth oil refinery
Unite tanker drivers were claiming victory after BP "did the right thing" and settled with workers over cuts to pay and pensions.
They stood to lose up to £16,000 a year on their pension value and £1400 a year on basic earnings as a result of an aviation contract transfer to DHL.
But following negotiations, the 42 workers who will transfer from BP to DHL will receive the full value of the BP share-match scheme as an indefinite monthly payment and deals have also been agreed to cover losses to pensions as a result of the contract transfer.
Last weekend, the drivers took 72 hours of strike action with further strikes planned from tomorrow (Thursday).
Unite industrial officer Tony Trench said: "This is a magnificent result for our members who were resolute in their pursuit of pay and pension justice from BP.
"We've faced down the fourth biggest company in the world over the basic principle of fairness. We said from the outset we were always prepared to negotiate and that, after Friday's 72 hour strike action, the ball was firmly in BP's court to end the dispute by doing the right thing. It has done the right thing."
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