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Refinery strikers threaten more action

  • Grangemouth walk-out may be first of many
  • Minister to visit Scotland
  • Government plans emergency action
Words By Jim Holder

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The union behind the strike at the Grangemouth oil refinery has warned that its members could walk out again.

More than 1200 workers affiliated to the Unite union are mid-way through a 48-hour strike in protest at pension changes.

The union's national officer, Phil McNulty, said: 'Industrial action is never desirable, but this is the only possible sanction against a company prepared to make such an audacious attack against our members.'

Even if work resumes as normal after the action, the refinery owners have said that it may be three weeks before Grangemouth can return to full production.

Contingency plans
Business secretary John Hutton is to visit Scotland this week to see the effects of the strike first-hand and to thank retailers for keeping supplies moving.

He has said that if supplies did dip dramatically, a national emergency plan drawn up after the petrol blockades of 2000 could be put into action.

Under the plans, the Government would take over the supply of fuel, prioritising the emergency services, public transport and food hauliers.

Ministers could also impose a 15 limit at the pumps for each car and 150 for each lorry.

Price hikes criticised
Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that it had been involved in discussions over the possible use of troops if it became necessary to safeguard supplies for vital services.

Reports have suggested that only 50 petrol stations in the affected areas in northern England and Scotland ran dry due to panic buying, and all were re-stocked within 24 hours.

Fuel stations that have hiked prices have come in for criticism, however. One petrol station near Inverness was reported to be charging 119.9p a litre for petrol and 131.9p for diesel, 10% higher than the UK average.