Union hopeful refuses to disown plot to target tycoon's family

Unite leadership contender who is a favourite to replace Len McCluskey is embroiled in row over ‘bully boy’ tactics after she targeted family of chemicals tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe

  • Sharon Graham is seeking to replace ‘Red’ Len McCluskey as the head of Unite 
  • Ms Graham was involved in a bitter dispute with Ineos in Grangemouth  
  • The union sought to target Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe’s family during the dispute
  • They wanted to find out the rugby team his son, who worked for Ineos, played for

One of the favourites to succeed Len McCluskey as boss of the giant union Unite was last night caught up in a row over ‘bully-boy’ tactics to target the family of one of Britain’s richest men.

Sharon Graham was challenged to disown a plan to win a bitter battle with Ineos chemicals tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe. The controversial tactic was drawn up in 2013 during a bitter industrial dispute between Unite and Ineos at its Grangemouth oil refinery.

The ‘private and confidential’ plan, devised by Ms Graham’s own national organising and leverage department at Unite, talked of opening ‘dialogue’ with Sir Jim’s former wife as well as checking where one of his sons, who worked for Ineos, played rugby.

Unite union hopeful Sharon Graham, pictured, has refused to disavow a plot to target the family of Sir Jim Ratcliffe during a bitter dispute with one of Britain’s richest men concerning his company Ineos 

Ms Graham hopes to replace Unite general Secretary Len McCluskey who is standing down

The powerful union even proposed enlisting the support of former Manchester United manager and Labour backer Sir Alex Ferguson, as Ineos boss Sir Jim is a fan of the team.

Last night, Left-winger Ms Graham, one of three candidates bidding to succeed ‘Red Len’ as general secretary, insisted she did not write the plan and was not in charge of the union’s action. But she made no apology for targeting the families of entrepreneurs in some cases.

Her spokesman said: ‘Employers never think of families when they fire and rehire workers at will.

‘Company owners’ families are included in a campaign only if they have major business links to the company concerned. If employers object to that, it is hypocrisy.’

Gerard Coyne – the favoured candidate of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s – condemned the draft plans. He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The targeting and harassment of people’s families is totally unacceptable.’

The current ballot to succeed Mr McCluskey, a staunch ally of ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, is seen as vital to Sir Keir’s future as Unite is one of the party biggest financial backers. Last week, Mr McCluskey claimed the party could ‘go under’ with Sir Keir at the helm.

Mr McCluskey was challenged yesterday to reveal how much union money was spent concealing that he was in a relationship with Mr Corbyn’s ex-chief of staff Karie Murphy.

In a new book, Mr McCluskey, who previously denied the relationship, boasts of his game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the press to suppress the story. Mr Coyne called on him to reveal how much Unite members’ money had been spent on the denials.

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