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Britain to launch probe into union intimidation: report

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron reaches into his pocket as he arrives for the official photograph of Commonwealth heads of states dur
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron reaches into his pocket as he arrives for the official photograph of Commonwealth heads of states dur

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will investigate allegations of bullying and intimidation by labor unions just a weeks after a high-profile dispute between workers and a petrochemical firm, Sky News reported late on Saturday, citing the office of Prime Minister David Cameron.

A wide-ranging review will look into the use of "leverage" tactics by unions and the impact disputes with business have on key national infrastructure.

The announcement comes less than a month after the Grangemouth petrochemical plant in Scotland was nearly closed following a dispute between unions and operator Ineos.

An Ineos director said at the time that he feared for the safety of his wife and children after 30 Unite members protested outside his house, prompting Cameron to describe alleged picketing of refinery managers' homes as "quite shocking."

Ineos announced it would shutter the Grangemouth plant in October after failing to reach a deal with the Unite union following the dismissal of a representative led to workers backing strike action.

But after the company said it would close the plant, workers eventually agreed to a three-year pay freeze and a cut in pension benefits, pledging not to strike for three years in return for keeping the facility open.

In recent months, Cameron has attacked Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband in several clashes focussing on donations the party received from unions and a scandal involving the country's biggest union.

The Unite union, also a donor to Labour, was accused - but later cleared - of hijacking the selection of a candidate to contest a parliamentary seat in the Scottish town of Falkirk.

The government review will report to Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude and Business Secretary Vince Cable, Sky News reported.

"Allegations about trade union industrial intimidation tactics, including attempts to sabotage businesses supply chains and harass employers' families are deeply concerning," Maude is quoted as saying by Sky.

"That's why we need an independent review to get to the bottom of these activities, as well as to look at the role played by government, employers and employees in industrial disputes."

A Unite spokesman accused the government of attempting to divert attention from public concerns over rising prices and stagnating wages.

Downing Street declined to comment when asked by Reuters but said an official announcement would be made later in the week.

(Reporting By Costas Pitas; Editing by Bill Trott)