Union explains strike reasons

* Union apologies for strike disruption * Unite furious over pension scheme plans * Strike could push up petrol prices...

Union explains strike reasons

The union representing 1200 striking workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery has taken out advertisements in Scottish newspapers explaining the reasons for its 48-hour stoppage, which threatens to push fuel prices to a new high.

Unite claims in the adverts that workers had no choice but to strike, and apologised for any inconvenience caused by the two-day walk-out.

Strikers are furious at plans to close the final salary pension scheme to new workers - a move which Unite says will save the refinery's owners Ineos 1.5m a year. The union, however, says the company makes 3m a day at its Grangemouth plant alone. Discussions over the pensions issue have been going on for eight months.

Catherine Bithell, of Unite, told The Independent: 'It's a grave step, and they're doing it because they've been left with no alternative by Ineos management, who seem to be hell-bent on closing down a viable, affordable and well-funded final salary scheme.'

Ineos chief executive, Tom Crotty, responded: 'We have made concession after concession from our original position to try and keep them negotiating. All of that has failed and that is why we are in this terrible position.'

Ineos claims the scheme costs 10,000 per employee per year and accounts for a quarter of labour costs, which could rise to 50% as pensioners live longer.

It wants to invest 750m in the Grangemouth plant to secure its future, but says pension costs could undermine the economic case for doing so.