Grangemouth Refinery To Stop Fuel Production
All fuel production is to be halted at the Grangemouth refinery ahead of a planned strike by staff this weekend that experts warn could cripple fuel supplies in Scotland.
The decision was announced as the owners of the site started peace talks in a bid to halt the planned 48-hour stoppage.
Ineos said on Sunday it had agreed to go to independent arbitration with the Unite union - a move seen as easing the prospect of a strike.
Grangemouth produces an estimated 13% of the UK's motor fuel capacity while it is understood all of Scotland's needs are met through supplies from the site, which takes one week to be fully shut down.
The Scottish Government said contingency planning was under way in case the talks were unsuccessful.
Unite confirmed on Friday its members would go on strike from October 20 in a dispute over alleged unfair treatment of a plant worker, Stephen Deans, who is also a union official.
The union and company are also arguing over terms and conditions at the plant.
Ineos has said the petrochemical site would have to close by 2017 unless a "survival plan" involving cutting pension entitlement and pay was implemented.
The company argues that the refinery, located on the Firth of Forth, is currently not profitable - losing more than £576m in the last four years and continues to lose £10m per month.
It claims the pension scheme is £200m in deficit and pension costs of 65% of salary are "unsustainable".
Speaking ahead of Monday's talks at Acas in Glasgow, Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said: "We welcome Ineos's change of heart to join us at Acas.
"We've repeatedly urged the company to sit down with us at the conciliation service to resolve the issues surrounding the unfair treatment of our convenor and the future of Grangemouth.
"Over the weekend we have been working tirelessly to secure these talks and hope that the company will engage in them in an open, constructive manner."
An overwhelming mandate for strike action was received by Unite from the workforce, with 81.4% voting for walkouts and 90% for other forms of industrial action, on an 86% turnout.
Calum MacLean, Ineos chairman, said: "We have always been prepared to go to Acas if this helps to resolve a strike that Grangemouth petrochemical plant and refinery cannot afford.
"We hope to be able to resolve the dispute and address the financial issues that threaten the survival of the entire site."
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said he had worked hard to get the parties to agree to talks and called the move "a very welcome and encouraging step".