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Employment: Inquiry to investigate Trade Union tactics

The Government has launched an inquiry into the tactics of Trade Unions, after a workforce dispute almost resulted in the closure of the largest petrochemical plant in Scotland, reports the BBC.

The Prime Minister has asked Bruce Carr QC to head up an inquiry to look at whether new laws need to be passed to prevent intimidation and harassment of employees by Union officials.

The inquiry comes after events at the Grangemouth Petrochemical plant in Scotland almost led to the closure of the plant and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

The plant is run by Petrochemical firm Ineos, in conjunction with joint owner PetroChina.

The dispute centred over the company's treatment of long-standing employee and Unite Union convener, Stephen Deans.

Mr Deans was embroiled in a row earlier in the summer, after it was alleged that he bribed employees by offering to pay their union membership fees, providing they agreed to vote in accordance with the Unite Union's choice for a Labour candidate for Parliament in the local Falkirk seat.

After the scandal broke, the Labour party announced that key evidence against Mr Deans had been withdrawn, and that as a result he was cleared of wrongdoing and any investigation against him was dropped.

Mr Dean's employer, Ineos, argued that as the alleged activities were conducted on company property, they were entitled to conduct their own investigation and to suspend Mr Deans whilst the investigation was completed.

The move ignited a row that led to the threat of strike action and the possible closure of the Grangemouth plant, which is already under significant financial pressure.

The Conservatives now say that some of the Union's actions around the Grangemouth dispute amounted to intimidation of management, and that an inquiry is needed to establish whether existing laws are sufficient to curb such behaviour.

Francis Maude, the Conservative Cabinet Office minister, told the BBC: "It's not about politics, this is about the national interest... in preventing the kind of really intimidatory activity that was alleged to have taken place around Grangemouth... to see whether the law is effective in preventing that and if any changes should be made."

Unite said it would not participate, describing the inquiry as a 'Tory stunt'.