It was cold, it was wet, but this morning members of Unite the union braved conditions to protest outside BASF chemical plant on Swinton Hall Road, Pendlebury, with banners, leaflets and a giant rat.
"BASF has got a link to INEOS and we're here today to highlight the victimisation of Stevie Deans, one of our stewards in Scotland" a Unite official told the Salford Star "INEOS' behaviour is disgraceful."
While the chemical company dispute is bubbling under at the moment, it could well `blow up' into a major national problem if an all out strike is provoked. Unite's Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty laid it all on the line recently…
"It is our view INEOS is using Stevie Deans, who is an innocent man, and the country's energy supplies, as pawns in some twisted industrial game" he said "The company's inaction will force the union into industrial action which would inevitably put the nation's fuel supply at risk. It will be INEOS' refusal to engage that will be to blame should this happen."
It does seem that there is some weird stuff going on. Stevie Deans is the Unite shop steward who was involved in the Labour Party candidate selection process in Falkirk which made national headlines recently, even though the police and every other investigating body concluded that no wrongdoing had taken place.
In July, Stevie Deans was suspended by his employer, INEOS, then reinstated, although the company is still, apparently, targeting him and trying to provoke a strike with threats of cuts to jobs, pay and pensions.
Unite's leaflet states that Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of INEOS, "is motivated by wanting to break the union and strike fear into the workforce…The victimising of Stevie Deans is, we believe, part of a plan to go to war with the union – whatever the cost."
Unite's evidence appears compelling. In 2012, Grangemouth Chemicals made an operating profit of £49million, up £18million on the previous year – yet the company still wants to cut jobs and wages?
According to the leaflet, there's no evidence that INEOS has paid any tax in the UK since 2008, and operates in five tax havens.
If Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS company doesn't stop victimising Stevie Deans and shunning talks with the union about the future of Grangemouth, Unite predicts a prolonged strike which would impact North Sea oil and gas supplies, as well as the supply of chemicals for manufacturing and fuel for cars.
The dispute is already being dubbed `The Battle of Grangemouth', with Unite accusing INEOS of `Cannonball Diplomacy'...
Today's Salford protest at BASF was one of several at local sites in the last week… "Unite protesters have visited three BASF sites as part of their dispute with INEOS" said a BASF spokesperson "BASF has no involvement in this dispute."
For more details on the dispute click here