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Latest News - October 2013

October 30, 2013
Terrorised by union bullies: How Labour's Unite paymasters intimidated managers and their children in bitter oil refinery battle
Source: Mail Online
Tim Shipmen

The full extent of the Unite union’s campaign of bullying and intimidation against senior managers during the bitter Grangemouth oil refinery dispute is revealed today.

In a disturbing echo of the union militancy of the 1970s and 80s, Unite leaders deployed a dirty tricks squad to personally target and humiliate executives of the Ineos chemical company and their families.

The sinister unit – known as the ‘Leverage team’ – sent mobs of protesters to the homes of senior figures in the firm.

One director last night said he had feared for the safety of his wife and his two young children after 30 Unite protesters descended on his drive during the school holidays.

The Unite union bullied and intimidated senior managers during the bitter Grangemouth oil refinery dispute

Police were called after the group approached his neighbours, telling them he was ‘evil’ in an apparent attempt to coerce him into giving in to their demands.

 The daughter of another company boss had ‘Wanted’ posters denouncing her father posted through her front door hundreds of miles away in Hampshire.

The union agreed to call off the Leverage team only as part of the settlement of  the dispute.

Yesterday, an unrepentant Unite spokesman said such activities were ‘legitimate in the context of an industrial dispute’, adding that ‘bad employers should have nowhere to hide’.

Stephen Deans, the Unite organiser at the heart of the dispute

Details of the bully-boy tactics were revealed yesterday as David Cameron branded Stephen Deans, the Unite organiser at the heart of the dispute, a ‘rogue trade unionist’ whose behaviour nearly sank the plant.

Ineos threatened to close the Grangemouth plant after Mr Deans and Unite refused a new pay and pension package designed to save the business.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey brought the dispute to crisis point by launching strike action.

Unite finally caved in last Friday and Mr Deans resigned on Monday after being told he would be fired for spending a quarter of his working hours on Labour party business. Mr Deans was also chairman of the Falkirk Labour party where he had become embroiled in a Labour vote-rigging scandal.

The Prime Minister said of Mr Deans: ‘Frankly, we have a real problem with a rogue trade unionist at Grangemouth who nearly brought the Scottish petrochemical industry to its knees.’

One Grangemouth boss, who as asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, called the police after 25 Unite members working for the union’s Leverage team protested on his driveway with flags, banners and an inflatable rat for about 90 minutes on October 18.

The director was called by his wife, who was out with her children and had been phoned by a friend to say a mob had arrived on their doorstep. He rushed to the scene said he was overcome with ‘bloody anger’ when he saw they had targeted him.

‘It was a mob, a threatening mob,’ he said. Children as young as seven who were playing on the street were coaxed into joining the mob.

‘They were trying to humiliate me,’ the director said. ‘Trying to portray me as a nasty boss, a nasty capitalist. To portray me as someone evil. Their intent was to have my neighbours thinking, gosh, what sort of a guy do we have living there.


Unite members protest outside the home of an Ineos director over the Grangemouth dispute

‘It was just despicable to approach kids and try to introduce them to a demonstration against one of their neighbours. It’s hard to find words to describe the lunacy of their behaviour.’

Police were called and interviewed the director and his neighbours at length, saying they would search out the members of the group on suspicion of being in breach of the peace. Officers decided not to press charges.

The director added: ‘Their intent was to gain concessions. But taking it to someone’s home, to someone’s drive, during the school holidays, is way over the line.’

Unite admit the use of ‘Leverage’ on their website and claim it has helped secure a number of ‘landmark victories’.

It says: ‘Leverage is a process whereby the union commits resources and time to making all interested parties aware of the treatment received by Unite members at the hands of an employer.

‘Those interested parties may include shareholders of the employer; competitors of the employer; communities within which the employer operates; customers of the employer and the market place of the employer.

‘We ask all interested parties to make moral and ethical decisions about their future relations with an employer who we believe is acting immorally.

‘Unite will make sure all are aware of the true facts behind an employer’s poor treatment of our members.

‘We will ask those who object to the behaviour of an immoral employer to conduct in lawful protest against the actions of the employer.

‘Where Unite members are involved in such lawful protest the union will use  its best endeavours to ensure such  members are aware of their rights of  lawful protest. Leverage is not a call for unofficial action.

‘Leverage is about the democratic right of the union to ensure that immoral employers cannot hide behind veils of secrecy and must conduct their business in an open and transparent fashion and accept the consequences of the moral judgements that may follow.

‘It is in no way a replacement for  collective strength. The development of industrial power remains vital if workers are to have the ability to win long-term.

‘Leverage does not offer a solution that excludes the critical need to organise workers.
‘Leverage has secured landmark  victories including:

‘Honda – defeat of de-recognition at the CAC.
‘BESNA – defeat of the so-called BESNA 7 – construction industry ‘majors’ – who were seeking to rip up industry agreements and impose inferior contracts on thousands of workers.

‘London Buses – a supplementary payment gained following a dispute over additional workload caused by London’s hosting of the Olympics.’

The director and his wife now fear for the safety of their children, who are both under ten.

‘It had quite an impact on my kids,’ he said. ‘My wife is very concerned that they could turn up at any time again. They know where I live. It’s in the back of my mind.’

Leaflets denouncing company owner Jim Ratcliffe were also posted through the doors of homes in the town where he lives.

Union protests were also held outside dozens of businesses which trade with Ineos, including their bankers Lloyds and customers Sainsbury’s and Asda, in a effort to pressurise them to cut their ties with the firm.

Another Ineos director said: ‘They have send flying squads of protesters to dozens of businesses we have links with. The put leaflets through the door of pretty much every house in Lyndhurst where we have our headquarters. My daughter received a poster explaining what a terrible person I am.

‘This behaviour smacks of totalitarianism. The way they have been behaving is frankly insane.’

The Mail has seen an email, sent from Mr Deans’ email account last Wednesday, acknowledging that the Leverage unit went on the attack.

The message, written by Mr Deans’ fellow Unite convenor Mark Lyons to Calum MacLean and Declan Sealy, the two Ineos negotiators, offered the company a deal. In addition to accepting the ‘survival plan’ and ‘pensions proposals’, the Unite point man also says union bosses will ‘ensure withdrawal of leverage strategy’.

On Unite’s website, the union boasts that it uses ‘leverage’ to put pressure on ‘shareholders of the employer, competitors of the employer, communities within which the employer operates’ and ‘customers of the employer’.

‘Leverage is about the democratic right of the Union to ensure that immoral employers cannot hide behind veils of secrecy.’

The behaviour of the Leverage team appears not to violate union laws banning secondary picketing since protests are allowed if they do not prevent employers of the firms they targeted from going to work.

But the Tories last night branded the revelations ‘extremely sinister’ and called on Ed Milibad to reopen Labour’s inquiry into the activities of Unite.

A Unite spokesman said: ‘All the activities referred to are both legal and legitimate in the context of an industrial dispute. Bad employers should have nowhere to hide.

‘Of course all campaigning in the context of the Ineos dispute has now ended.

‘However for the workers and their union to be described as “bullies” is beyond satire.’

Last night Len McCluskey denounced Mr Cameron after he used Prime Minister’s Question Time to criticise Mr Deans.

‘The Prime Minister’s conduct today was disgraceful,’ said Mr McCluskey. ‘His rush to smear a good and honourable man will appal decent-thinking people. He should apologise at once.’



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