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Talks begin to save chemical plant
Workers walk through the Grangemouth oil refinery in Falkirk, Scotland, following a meeting where owners Ineos have decided to shut down the petrochemical side of the complex
Union leaders are to meet managers at the giant Grangemouth site in a bid to save thousands of jobs following the shock decision to close the petrochemcal side of the business.
Unite said it had made a number of recommendations to owner Ineos, which yesterday announced the closure of the petrochemical plant with the loss of 800 jobs and potential 2,000 more among contractors.
A union spokesman said: "Unite has made recommendations to Ineos as way to save jobs and prevent needless harm to this plant and the local community.
"We meet with the company today and will hear then if they share these objectives."
The company insisted yesterday it had no alternative but to close the business after it failed to persuade its staff to accept a survival plan, which included a pay freeze, ending of a final salary pension scheme and other changes to terms and conditions.
Ineos said white-collar workers such as admin staff had backed the plan, but workers represented by Unite had rejected it.
The adjoining oil refinery at Grangemouth will stay open, although the entire site has been closed for the past week as a result of the dispute.
Almost 1,400 workers are employed at Grangemouth, Scotland's biggest industrial site.
Politicians have urged the two sides to resume talks to prevent the closure, while efforts are expected to be made to find a potential buyer.
Ineos said it had been losing £10 million a month at Grangemouth.
Tom Crotty, a director of Ineos, said the company would put Unite's proposals to shareholders if there was a "very significant" change from the union.
He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The management team on the site will listen to hear what Unite has said.
"If they believe there are substantive differences in where we are now then clearly they have a duty to take that back to the shareholders.
"The shareholders met after the vote on Monday and, quite understandably in my opinion, took a view that if the workforce had rejected that £300 million investment, then how were they going to go ahead and make it if the workforce were not behind that? That is why the closure announcement has been made.
"If the management team feel that there is a very significant change then I'm sure they would probably feel they would need to take that back to the shareholders and have further discussions."
Finance Secretary John Swinney told the programme: "I hope that at this very, very, very late stage in the process there is a willingness to listen to and to consider the proposals being put forward.
"Everybody is agreed that this plant has a strong future with the necessary investment and that is why the Scottish Government is wiling to be a player in that.
"We are now in a position at the very late stage of having the opportunity to have a discussion about some of the substantive issues that will affect the financial future of the plant and I hope that discussion this morning is constructive and successful."
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey is at the Grangemouth site today. A union spokesman said he was there to meet Unite members and "support all efforts to save jobs at the plant".
Mr McCluskey arrived with his Scottish counterpart Pat Rafferty and said it was a "very serious" situation and that he will give an update after talks at the site today.
He said: "I'm going in to meet the shop stewards to get an update on the situation. We're dealing with an employer that has laid down an ultimatum, I'm here to support my members, support the community and support the Scottish nation.
"We're not going to allow a plant to close down that destroys communities and threatens the very security of not only Scotland, but the north of England and the north of Ireland.
"It's not a question of people miscalculating or handling the situation badly, we're dealing with a serious situation and we're going to deal with that in a responsible fashion."
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael will be in Grangemouth later to hold talks on the future of the petrochemical plant with Ineos as well as Unite. The Scottish Government will also attend.
Mr Carmichael will also meet representatives from Falkirk Council, the local Chamber of Commerce and a number of local businesses to listen to their views and address concerns on the situation at the plant.