The Labour Party’s position on the Unite/Ineos dispute seems astonishing. It can’t survive the weekend, surely?
Neil Findlay MSP, a Scottish shadow cabinet minister, yesterday put out this statement on social media:
“The workers at Ineos have my full support and solidarity – the company are (sic) acting disgracefully”.
Does Labour really see the dispute in those simplistic terms? Goodie union and baddie bosses? That’s it?
There’s no question that the statement wasn’t run by Johann Lamont first. Findlay’s a shadow cabinet minister and Grangemouth is Scotland’s biggest industrial crisis – there’s no scope for a dissenting ‘personal’ position – unless of course he’s going to resign over it. Findlay’s a ‘proud Unite member’ of course. But then so is Johann Lamont, and that can’t be why her only response to the matter has been to be silent on Unite but implicitly critical of Ineos. Can it? Or what about Ian Gray, Finance and Employment shadow minister? His opposite number, John Swinney, has been all over the issue. Gray? I can’t find a single quote. Again, that can’t be because he, too, is a ‘proud Unite member. Surely not?
So Labour’s take on Scotland’s biggest industrial crisis for year – a plant shut down, a dollar on crude, thousands of jobs at stake is ‘baddie billionaire bosses’ and ‘up Unite’? Not a matter of economics, investment, jobs, negotiations over pay and conditions. Just blackhats? It’s puerile. Is it stupidity and lack of nous? I don’t think it is, actually. I think it’s fear of Unite. Many politicians have close relationships with unions, but most are able to be direct with their union buddies and tell them when it’s all going pear-shaped. Not so Labour’s leadership in Scotland. They’re in too deep without buoyancy aids.
As I wrote in my last blogpost (below) Unite’s convener at Grangemouth, Stephen Deans, put an enormous amount of time and effort into trying to sort the local parliamentary selection – effort which should have been put into planning for the crunch talks which Ineos has been signalling for months. Trade union organisers all over Scotland can see that. Pat Rafferty, Unite’s dimwitted Scottish Secretary, stressed that the proposed strike was not about pay, the future, jobs – no, none of that stuff. It was about Deans himself. Now Rafferty is trying to argue the wider industrial case but he’s missed the bus. And, by the way, that bus was probably made during a period when Unite (under Rafferty) for once wasn’t on strike at Falkirk’s other main industrial employer, ADL the ‘Olympic’ bus-maker who puts Falkirk on the world map.
Scottish Labour is horribly out of its depth. Again. Ed Miliband needs to send in the cavalry with a ‘clarifying statement’. Again. There is a very serious economic crisis at Grangemouth. I, and other MPs, have lobbied UK ministers to help Ineos with investment. The unions need to engage with the situation properly – not fanny around making stupid political gestures. Labour MSPs need to get engaged too. But they won’t be led to it by Lamont, Gray or Findlay.
I’ve just walked through Perth. SNP members are laughing their socks off.